Recently, I was asked a couple times what my thoughts were on the impeachment proceedings unfolding in Washington DC. Without a doubt, the trial is dominating many news cycles, and not only in the US but outside of it as well. It is a strange phenomenon that is astonishingly divorced from the pressing issues of its time. Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle writ large across ubiquitous screens.
Trump is a vile human being. This much is a given. But let’s be honest. This is a battle among the wealthy ownership class about crimes that this class commits on a regular basis. It isn’t about real crimes any of us would be tried or convicted for, and it isn’t about things humanity should be appalled by, like separating children from their parents and putting them in cages, or carpet bombing civilians, or drone bombing foreign nationals on foreign soil, or training death squads, or deregulating planet killing industries, or opening up untouched lands to mining, fossil fuel, agriculture and timber interests. No crimes against humanity or the living planet, the ones that count, are being addressed here.
In the meantime, the working class and ordinary people in the US continue to contend with little or no healthcare coverage, increasing wealth disparity, increasing debt and increasing homelessness. In the meantime, people who live outside the US, and in places targeted by its belligerent foreign policy, contend with literal life and death situations caused by a bloated and unhinged military state that spends more on its endless wars than on the welfare of its own people. In the meantime, the biosphere continues to be assaulted by the timber, mining, agricultural and fossil fuel industries, plastic continues to be dumped into the world’s oceans, fish stocks are plummeting, coral reefs are bleaching, forests are being felled at record pace, and climate change fueled calamities are increasing dramatically. In the meantime, people who expose the crimes of the powerful are languishing in prison, like Chelsea Manning, with little to no coverage in the mainstream media. In the meantime, people who assist desperate human beings dying of thirst in the desert or drowning at sea, or who want to ease the suffering of sentient beings on factory farms, or who try to defend our water from pipelines that always leak, are being portrayed as terrorists and are facing jail time for it.
One of the greatest gifts the ruling class possesses is distraction, and in this they create the conditions for a pervading sense of alienation. Alienation from each other. Alienation from the natural world on which we depend. Alienation from our own humanity. And this is because it creates a series of unconnected moments where each one has little or nothing to do with the last one. This creates collective amnesia and a sense of powerlessness. It is how a war criminal like John Bolton, a man largely responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, can be cast as a defender of justice. It is how the real crimes of corporations or the military industrial complex go unpunished. Forgotten, until the next catastrophe.
So forgive me if I simply do not care much about the squabbles among the powerful or the ruling class, but I am sick to death of the distraction, of the spectacle. Trump will likely ride this new calamity out like he has the last ones. But even if he doesn’t nothing of consequence will change in time to matter to the majority of living beings on this planet unless the whole house of cards comes down in a heap. Until then the global capitalist class will go on pillaging, polluting and raping humanity and the living planet, and putting on show after show to distract us all while they do so. Producing shadow puppets on the wall of the cave, chiding or mocking those who question or dissent, and keeping us chained to it all.
So isn’t it time to climb out of the cave that Plato so long ago described? And while there is still time? As an fyi, the ominous “Doomsday Clock” of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists was just moved to a mere 100 seconds before midnight, the closest it has ever been.
Kenn Orphan January 2020