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A few years ago, I wrote about “The Paradox of Capitalism,” which reflected on the reality that we are dependent for survival on the very system that is threatening the survival of our entire planet.

paradoxWith the passing of time, the paradoxical nature of our world has only revealed itself more. The most powerful man in the world right now is perhaps the very worst possible person one could choose to hold such a responsibility. We’ve also seen a string of sexual abuse scandals begin to emanate from the most powerful people in Hollywood.

Why is it that those who abuse others seem to wind up in positions of authority and are enabled in their abuse, while those abused are often silenced for years or even decades? 

Let’s investigate this question through the use of paradoxes – I hope they will shed some light on the subject. I’ll begin with the most obvious and then build toward to the core of our question.

Age

The young take great pains to appear older; the old take great pains to appear younger.

For the young, time passes excruciatingly slowly; the older one gets, the more one realizes how rapidly time passes, and consequently how young one actually is.

Knowledge

The least knowledgeable are the most likely to declare what they think they know; the most knowledgeable are the most likely to admit what they don’t.

People who speak the most often have the least to say; people who speak the least often have spent the most time in quiet observation, and therefore have the most wisdom to share.

Confidence

Those who project confidence have likely spent the least effort challenging their own understanding — this is shallow confidence; those who reveal uncertainty likely have forged the strongest understanding in a cauldron of self-doubt — here is deep confidence.

Shallow confidence won’t stand up to scrutiny but is the least likely to be challenged – its brazenness and loudness leads to wide acceptance; deep confidence is constantly overlooked, challenged and dismissed, despite its actually being the strongest.

Power

Those with the least power in society are the most likely to blame themselves for their failures; those with the most power are the quickest to blame someone else. This helps ensure that those in power tend to remain in power, and vice versa.

People most likely to act on behalf of the best interests of everyone, i.e. those who would make the best leaders, are the quickest to doubt their own ability to lead; people most likely to seek leadership positions are also the most likely to act on their own self-interest and consequently make the worst leaders.

The concentration of power into the fewest hands accelerates the efficiency of the exercise of that power; it also ensures that the exercise of power will be divorced from the actual will of the people. This explains the creation of every system of abuse – from patriarchy to capitalism to the U.S. government to Hollywood.

Conclusion

Using this paradoxical viewpoint, especially highlighting the constant tension between what appears true on the surface and what is actually true deep underneath, opens up a window into the logic that has brought us to the terrible conundrum we are in – where the world is upside down.

The conundrum can only be escaped through democracy, the decentralization of power, and on a more personal level, the active practice of listening, asking questions, and philosophical self-doubt.

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by Alex Knight, 1/6/17

Republished on Countercurrents.

In 2000, I was 17 years old. I didn’t know the first thing about politics, history, or social change. My first preference in the U.S. Presidential Election was for George W. Bush.[i] Somehow in my ignorance I had figured out that the Democrats were the more popular party, and I reviled what was popular. The President for the last eight years had been a Democrat. I also knew that the society I lived in sucked. It sucked for teenage me, and it sucked in general. So, without any deeper thought on the subject, my infantile rebellion led me to the only alternative in a two-party system, the Republicans. Once again in 2016, “non-college educated white men” like my teenage self followed similar logic to give Donald Trump just enough votes to sneak into the White House. When asked in exit polls what was the “quality that mattered most” in deciding who to vote for, the number one quality voters sought was a candidate who “can bring change.” Of those change-seeking voters, 83% were captured by Trump.

frederick-douglass-1

“Power concedes nothing without a demand.” – Frederick Douglass. History teaches us that hope can overcome fear through struggle.

After the election, it’s tempting to curl up into a state of shock and surrender to fear or apathy. The U.S. voting public just elected someone who is openly racist, sexist, and xenophobic. 30 states were won by a man who brags about sexually assaulting women, led a campaign to delegitimize the nation’s first Black president by questioning his citizenship, and wants to build a giant wall on the Mexican border to keep out poor immigrants who he called “rapists.” The people he’s now appointing to run organs of government are quite literally the very worst people in the country, whose entire careers have been based on undermining social and ecological protections. The future looks bleak. Is neo-fascism already here?

In our deeply cynical society, it is the task of revolutionaries to see the silver lining of hope that has just opened before us. We must appreciate that this moment is a great opportunity for radicalizing the millions of people who are dissatisfied with the status quo. Donald Trump is the most disliked major-party candidate to ever run for the Presidency. The election of a despised, buffoonish, billionaire capitalist to head the U.S. government provides anti-capitalists with a glaring demonstration that the system does not work.

In this article we will review how a figure as polarizing as Trump was propelled to become a viable candidate through the mass media’s obsession with celebrity and scandal. We will also explore how the failure of the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party reflects the collapse of legitimacy for the status quo and its neoliberal capitalist project. Finally, we will face the threat of neo-fascism and explore what progressive radicals can offer now that a uniquely dangerous, yet uniquely unpopular, man is about to become the face of the U.S. government.

In the years after Bush II was elected, I was fortunate enough to encounter anti-capitalists who showed me and invited me into the amazing tradition of grassroots organizing. I was able to discover an alternative path where my teenage frustrations were sharpened into anti-capitalist critique and a lifelong commitment to social justice. It is now my calling to pay forward the gift that was given to me. We have a choice on how to respond to the election. We can either spend the next 4-8 years wallowing in fears of how everything can go wrong, or we can recognize the special opportunity we have to provide a path for people to discover genuine change, community, and meaning that can only come through participation in radical social movements.

A Billionaire Cartoon Villain is About to Become US President

(In the next two sections, we will analyze how the election reveals the dysfunction of the electoral system and mass media. To jump to the repercussions and how to respond moving forward, click here.)

The system has failed and Donald Trump is the personification of that failure. Before the election, only 38% of the American public had a “favorable” opinion of Trump, as compared with 58% “unfavorable.” That -20% margin makes Donald Trump literally the most unfavorable candidate ever to get the endorsement of a major US political party. Significantly, Hillary Clinton was the second-most unfavorable candidate ever, with a -12.6% gap.

The historic unpopularity of the two major candidates drove down turnout for the two major parties:

2016election

The US adult population grows by about 10 million people per 4-year election cycle. While the raw vote totals have remained somewhat stable, support for the two major parties proportional to US population has decayed since 2008. Consequently, 8 million people voted for “third party” candidates in 2016, which is more than in any election since 1996. Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party combined for nearly 6 million votes. By comparison, Ralph Nader in 2000 was attacked as a spoiler for getting less than half that total. Putting Trump’s victory in perspective: it’s important to remember that 54% of voters, and nearly 75% of American adults, did not vote for Trump.

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