"Our world” is neither sane or insane, good or evil. It just is.
Whether we like it or not, sanity and goodness are human concepts subject to constant redefinition and reorientation based on OUR related proximity, interdependence, and mutual obligations. Those mutual obligations transcend individual conscious apprehension, but not in a mystical way. Those mutual obligations stem from collective and institutional choices.
Some people, whether they admit it or not, are almost all about “the self”.
Others are more grounded in their immediate or extended family.
Then there are more abstract identifications or “sources of commonality” such as tribe, race, religion, nation, species, or common sentience (the ability to feel pain or exchange affection for examples). But given our proclivities for carelessness, self-destruction, and mutual predation, those commonalities can only be protected by the creation, shaping, and reshaping of laws and institutions. Institutions are the imperfect human creations that can allow us to transcend pettiness, parochialism, opportunism, and savage forms of atavism.
That is what the trimpers are attacking whether they realize it or not. They are attacking the institutions of self-government and constitutional democracy.
One of the fundamental ideas to arise out of The Enlightenment is that human freedom and decency is always imperiled by concentrated power unchecked by countervailing interests. Starting in the 1600s, wealthy Europeans who were not of royal or noble descent worked hard to limit the power of government (kings and parliaments). These efforts grew out of efforts to constrain lawless robber barons and to end internecine slaughters fueled in part by misguided religious fervor. Yes, they did this to protect human freedom and decency. But also to protect their own private wealth. No human or human institution is entirely pure in their motivations or make-up.
The language used then and now about freedom and protection from tyranny are all focused on the power of the state, but tend to ignore the power of concentrated wealth outside of direct government control.
Corporate (ultimately “private” in today’s legal system) wealth now exerts undue influence over laws, institutions, and governments — and the results are the current ongoing circus cesspools of which trimp is just one vile symptom.
There definitely should be power centers outside of state control (no matter how “democratic” the government), but those power centers still need to be held accountable to other interests (workers, consumers, families, communities, the environment etc. etc). It may sound vague and unworkable but such structures of control and accountability are slowly evolving although their development may not be sufficient given the potential for major political, economic, and environmental crises that we can neither satisfactorily ignore nor contend with right now.
All this is under attack from the trimpers.
The trimpers now have at their disposal one the the major established political parties in the US, still the most powerful polity and empire ever to have existed
The trimpers and the GOP have access to certain religious and mass entertainment sentiments that have been rudely cultivated over recent centuries coincident with the development of state capitalism. Other sentiments they have access to are racism, jingoism, and economic insecurity. And, of course, they are able to exploit a source of resentment and frustration that all of share which all stem from the stubborn fact that no individual or institution is purely good or sane. Additionally, trimpers and the GOP have access to many institutionalized (habitual and class-based) techniques for exploiting these sentiments for the benefit of a tiny elite which has grown increasingly powerful and immune from political checks and balances.
It is this unchecked and unaccountable power of a tiny and irresponsible elite that animates trimpism and the current configuration of the GOP
It is this unchecked and unaccountable power of a tiny and irresponsible elite that animates the current attack on seriousness, the rule of law, and the institutions of self-government as a liberal constitutional democracy.
A recent popular film is entitled "The Joker." It purports to give a human dimension to a comic book super-villain famous for sowing chaos and destruction for the sole purpose of inflicting dismay on anyone who might imagine themselves to be "pure" or heart or, worse, "innocent". I haven't seen that movie.
A movie which I have seen is Beatriz at Dinner. In this film, a jocular billionaire played involved in shady politics and callous depredations against the environment turns to the title character and earnestly says something to the effect of :
"We're all going to die. Everything is going to be destroyed. Why take it too seriously? Why not enjoy yourself to the extent that you can?"
Why take government seriously? Why take evidence seriously? Why take laws seriously? Why take seriousness seriously?
We are inherently neither sane nor insane, good nor evil. We are not inherently serious nor are we by nature totally scattered and unaccountable. What we feel to be sanity, goodness, and seriousness all require difficult, frustrating, and collective effort. There are understandable reasons why this effort can seem too overwhelming, too demanding, and too ill-fated. There are also those who idiotically profit (very short term and self destructively) from our loss of faith in laws, institutions, sanity, and seriousness. trimp is only one of those types of people.
We have choices to make, and we will get the institutions we collectively deserve.
Joe Panzica (Author of Democracy STRUGGLES! and Saint Gredible and Her Fat Dad's Mass. He is currently working on his second novel I Wanna Be Evil.