Liberals Envy Trump Voters

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Liberals who hate Trump are the overachievers.  They have gone to college (and send their children) at great personal expense.  There they studied something boring, useless, and irrelevant, or else something boring and scandalously practical.

Because of their industrious genes and this higher learning, liberals worry.  They worry about what they say, they worry about what other people say, they try to control what other people say, they worry about words and word choices, they argue, they worry about dogs in shelters and meat on the table, they worry about the climate, they worry about the economy, they worry about people at the border, they worry about people who might be at the border, they worry about politics, they worry about their cholesterol levels and sleep apnea and the legalization of marijuana, they worry about what smoking legal marijuana will do to their their sleep apnea, they worry about newts going extinct, they worry about hogweed by the side of the road, they worry about someone breaking into their second (or third) home, they worry about the guns they own or refuse to own, they worry about others with guns, they worry about the entire subject of guns, they worry about ozone and coral reefs and ticks and airborne toxic events.

Liberals worry about not reading enough no matter how much they read, they worry about nuclear war with North Korea, they worry about peace with North Korea, they worry about things like Honor Rolls and National Honor Society and Student Council and  things that look good on transcripts or, later, resumes.  They worry about corner offices, raises, things that trigger other things, migraines, hypertension, dementia, overpopulation and, simultaneously, not enough immigrants.

Liberals are diligent.  They work hard.  They not only work hard, they overwork.  They often – usually? – die, at least indirectly, from overwork, or else from escapes from overwork such as alcohol.  To them this is virtue.  They will split their guts to ensure justice – whatever that is – and diversity – whatever that is – as if there is a Cosmic Scorekeeper, even though some liberals are ostentatiously atheistic.

Liberals, in other words, are haunted from birth to death by a need to achieve, or, more precisely, a need to perfect the world.

This is why they envy and hate Trump voters.

Trump voters are less perfect.  They like perfect stuff if they can easily get their hands on it, but they won’t destroy their lives in active pursuit of it.  Many Trump voters are unaware of what an Honor Roll is, and if they’ve heard of Phi Beta Kappa, they assume that’s a place babes hang out.

They more often have not subjected themselves to college life, but instead have driven trucks, shot quail, tracked deer, worried only about today’s weather, and grown their own beef in the field out back.

They only worry about work in terms of not losing their jobs.  Otherwise they do the bare minimum to keep from getting fired or replaced by an immigrant.  They only worry about their health to the extent of asking, “Have I lost a leg today?” and if the answer is, “No, I haven’t lost a leg today, as best I can tell,” then their cholesterol can go to hell.

Liberals have sacrificed their lives to abstract things that they are totally incapable of making a dent in.  They have tossed their lives aside in an attempt to “make a difference”.  They get after others like flies taking to rotting meat, in an attempt to “educate” others into also sacrificing their lives.

When the others fail to be grateful for the alleged “education”, liberals get enraged.  Liberals are always enraged.  They are enraged that others have not given up their peace of mind the way they have.  They envy those of more relaxed mien and lower political standards.

What they really envy is the certainty of mind that many Trump voters seem to have.  Liberals question everything, even their questions.  They have been trained to believe that to question is good, and to have certainty of mind or peace of mind is bad, a sign of stupidity or of authoritarianism.

It’s not a sign of stupidity.  It’s a sign that there are people out there who realize that a driven life is a wasted life.

I think this explains 9/11 as well:  radical Islamists targeted the World Trade Center because it had the greatest concentration of driven Westerners in corner offices.  The terrorists don’t want their societies to be regimented in a New York City way, by achievement-oriented capitalists schooled in business, marketing, public relations, and whatnot.

Same with Trump voters.

There is nothing more unnerving than being envied.  Trump voters feel the Evil Eye of envy against their very being every time they go online or turn on the TV.  They know that liberals are envious of them, but that few liberals would ever see it, feel it, or admit to it.

There is an inversion.  Suddenly liberals are the reactionary Gray Flannel Suit people, bound to their speech codes and their dogma and catechisms and rules aplenty.  And the conservatives, or at least the populists, are the anything-goes hippies, unattached to passing worldly goods.

The Slow Life Movement is here now, and it voted for Trump.  This is the dirty secret of American electoral politics.  It is pro-leisure.  It fishes.

I envy a gentleman in Egypt – or Italy, or Greece – who spends an entire morning sipping coffee and shooting the breeze in a cafe before luxuriously pulling into the office.

So do many of you.  It’s a life you’ve never allowed yourself, isn’t it?

You hate yourself for that.  Which is why you envy and hate others.

It’s a wonderful life the system has made for you, isn’t it?

 

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A Burned-Out Society

Want to read some modern philosophy?  Of course you don’t.

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But if you feel compelled to, try some Byung-Chul Han.  If you want to read someone who is arguably the “hottest” thing in philosophy today AND writes simply (for a philosopher) AND writes really, really short bite-sized books, he’s the only game in town.

The downside is that Byung-Chul Han is a Korean-born philosopher who writes philosophy in his second language, German, which is then translated into English.  To me, this makes his pithy style rather robotic, disembodied and humorless.  Trust me, this is a good thing; it makes him far more readable than philosophers who are pressing to impress.

To do the impossible, I’m going to try to summarize his books in the most concise possible way.  This does not do them justice.  But it sure makes my life – and yours – easier.

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THE BURNOUT SOCIETY is about how “achievement society creates depressives and losers”.  “In this society of compulsion, everyone carries a work camp inside”.  Contemplation fades; multitasking is the norm.  We are reduced to bare survival amidst riches too vast to chose among.

THE TRANSPARENT SOCIETY says that in our voluntary vomiting-forth of private data, information, and photos on social media we have lost all hope of finding the trail through the useless muck.  We leave our personal breadcrumbs scattered behind us, but they have gotten intermingled with the crumbs of other digital wanderers.  What is important?  What is the point?  The forest has been trampled beyond recognition.

THE AGONY OF EROS is Byung-Chul Han’s call to arms against the impersonal forces of what he calls “pornography” – far more than what we usually think the word means – and how “higher expectations . . . are responsible for the mounting disappointment experienced in contemporary society”.

We expect our lovers to be brain-dead perform-all-night porn stars at the same time we expect them to be world-class fantasists capable of touching our deepest nerves.  Can’t be done.  Can’t have both.  But porn isn’t just sex.

Porn is sport utility vehicles, information, strip highways, the internet, fast food, and if our burger is too dry, we are . . . depressed.  The objects and experiences are sold as erotic, sensual goods.  We soon discover that they are cold, dead steel, meat, and data.  And we have forgotten how to inject our love into them to make them come back to the life they had when we were younger.

Byung-Chul Han’s PSYCHO-POLITICS:  Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power

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attempts to convince us that we are self-Panopticons, achievement machines that patrol ourselves looking for any misdeeds – eating or drinking too much, failing to run five miles a day, not reading enough, not progressing in a career.  Henry Fords used to stand over us, as Foucault pointed out.  Ford’s thugs physically beat us if we showed up to work late.  Now we beat ourselves up if we don’t meet our personal goals or if we don’t achieve.  And not just in work, but in love and leisure.  Leisure and love ARE work now.

This is the Protestant work ethic on steroids.

We can’t just open one restaurant, we have to open a second, then a third, and so on.  We can’t just get a high school degree and flip burgers, we have to get a college degree and flip burgers, or a doctorate and tell people how to flip burgers.  If we get up at 5 am to meditate, we have to move on to the greater achievement of getting up at 4 am and running before we meditate.

And if we fail at constant acceleration, at constant achievement of new goals, we get anxious and depressed.

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Philosophers are never good at giving helpful hints.  None of Byung-Chul Han’s books end with a list of Top Ten Things To Do To Be Happy.

But his books are bestsellers – honest to God – in Germany, and are being internationally translated, because he helps us to see that it is not us.

It is not our fault.  It is society’s fault.

And the old truism that “we help to create the society that we live in” is no longer true.  Technology has gotten away from us.

According to Byung-Chul Han, being an “idiot” is the best we can do, and the most powerful we can be.  Idiots are outsiders, the politically unallied, the heretical, figures who resist by virtue of being surprisingly uninformed news-bite-wise, and mostly silent.

The idiot is like J. D. Salinger in his last decades:  silent and brimming with life, despite the death camps he witnessed.  An antenna beyond trifling Big Data.

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