This is a great read from Michael Lovelock on Aeon. His article, “The Makeover Trap“, sets out to explore the dynamics of the makeover in contemporary Western culture. His thesis is that this culture, whose extent of analysis stops at the individual consumer, sets up our societies for a rude awakening:
Young people in the West now face an increasingly uncertain future, in which markers of adulthood taken for granted by their parents – financial security, home ownership, secure careers and a nuclear family – appear ever more unattainable. Our appearance is one of the only things that seems to remain within our control. In such difficult times, the makeover reassures us that we need look no further than our own bodies – that the solutions to all manner of personal and political problems lie within the fabric of the self, rather than in the external and unmanageable structures of the material world. It encourages us to become isolated citizen-consumers, who need nothing but the commercial industries and the services they provide to achieve a successful, happy and satisfying life. In the world according to the makeover, the most important relationship you have is with just one person: yourself.
The quote above comprises the entire last paragraph. It frightens me because I belong to the generation about whom Lovelock laments. Certain of my talents may yet set me apart from sharing in my generation’s gloomy fate, but that does not stop me from feeling any less worse about my compatriots!
Much ink has been spilled over the argument that current politics alienates and ignores the millennial generation. That its lack of empathy produced the phenomena of Bernie Sanders on the political Left as well as influenced the rise of Donald Trump on the Right. Hillary Clinton, the candidate who stood athwart the establishment and cried “Stop!” to both her opponents, lost. Trump – the American Loki – now sits in the White House.
§ § §
– And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from Heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell up on the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; / And the name of the star is called Wormwood… and many died of the waters, because they were made bitter –
The Book of the Uncovering 8:10-11
Trump’s Republican Party cannot and does not offer a new vision for the country because it looks backwards: Make America Great Again. They refuse to see the world and work with it as it is. In a similar vein, managerial vision of the Democratic Party suffers from the opposite problem: In the person of Hillary Clinton, they saw the world too much as it is and, through Bernie Sander’s primary defeat, denied what it could be.
Trump’s victory rings out like a perverted horn of heaven. It breaks us from the loops that we trap ourselves in, informs us that our old patterns do not work. A sound unleashed cannot be unheard. We cannot drink from old waters. The individualism and greed that have worked as subtle forces in our national psyche for generations now occupy in naked glory the summit of American power.
How do we overturn this? It cannot be, as members of the self-proclaimed Resistance want, a return to the status quo represented by NAFTA, unshackled free trade, woke NIKE ads, silence to Foxconn suicides, new-$$$-foreign-restaurant-on-my-block consumerism (“Oh there’s this greaaaat new Yemenese place on my block!” followed by a discussion of drone targets near Sanaa).
This choice almost looks appealing when you consider what stands against it: the neoreactionaries, Nick Land, Steve Bannon, Richard Spencer, Kek cultists… but centrist vanguards will not be our salvation. It was under their watch that the system fell apart, the alt-right worked in the shadows, promising Trump and deliverance to the precariat.
To follow in the direction of Lovelock, a new communalism – no collectivism is possible in an empire of individuals – cries out for activation. This communalism must recognize the plight of working people. It should strive to cultivate a sense of national duty among the comfortable classes towards their fellow citizens. Above all, it must make peace with the reality that the American is forged out of a crucible of many experiences. Race, religion, class, ethnic origin, sexuality have all jumped out of their chains. At best to ignore the summation of these elements is, at best, shortsightedness, while, at worst, malevolent neglect.