Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Toynbee's prediction: a prescient foreshadowing or a dystopic dream?

Of the twenty-two civilizations that have appeared in history, nineteen of them collapsed when they reached the moral state the United States is in now. (Arnold Toynbee)

Although we have moved a distance past the work of Toynbee, can we really doubt the prescience of his observation? Having amassed the largest and most virulent military machine in history, by spending more than all other developed nations combined, and having found her streets, towns and cities erupting in violence, and having the largest and most insatiable appetite for illicit drugs, and having buried the nations’ head in the sand on global warming and climate change, and having wallowed through decades of both war abroad and gridlock in Congress, and having mounted a system of bully pulpits to which almost no one is listening, and having supervised the demise of both political parties through the insurrection of millions taking to the barricades on both the extreme left and extreme right, and having nominated and confirmed (by the end of next week) the most unpopular candidates for president in the nation’s history, and having opened the corporate and billionaires vaults to the political process without restrictions or constraints, and having outsourced the manufacturing processes with their attendant jobs and the research and development on which those highly technical products were based, and having watched the Chinese underwrite at least 40-50% of the national debt while also hacking the computers of not only the Pentagon on many occasions but also the secrets of several of the major U.S. corporations,  and having committed the most serious foreign policy mistake since the Declaration of Independence in invading Iraq, and having armed through the Pentagon and through both the open market sale and the black market trade all military initiatives, with the possible exception of Russia and China, and having developed both a massive missile shield and the most highly sophisticated bombs, drones and missiles the world has ever seen.

The United States of America is now poised to implode on its own literal and metaphoric sword.

Living by the iron and the steel, the gun powder and the nuclear fission and fusion, putting all of her “eggs” in the basket of hard power, and then undergirding that hard power with the multi-trillions in revenue from the sale/trade/barter/bribe of those weapons, the United States has accomplished what no other country has ever done: she has armed the world haphazardly, without regard to whether those deploying their left-over weapons of war were, are or will ever be allies, friends, or enemies. And she has also armed her own citizenry with over 80,000,000 private guns, completely rationalized as “only the good man with a gun is a match for a bad man with a gun” to the point where “open carry” laws permit hand guns and assault weapons to be carried openly and in public in states like Ohio. The state of Texas is about to pass a law permitting the carrying of concealed weapons on university campuses. The sale of guns spikes with every news report of another “lone wolf” shooting, or terrorist massacre, or revenge assassination of police, or assassination of black young men by white police officers, and there is no public will to put restraints on either the sale or the deployment of these weapons of mass destruction, a phrase coined to justify the Iraq invasion, under the threat that Saddam Hussein had biological, chemical and potentially nuclear weapons….posing a serious and immediate threat of a nuclear cloud.

To say that trust is missing in the relationship between the citizens and their government, and also between the two official political parties, and also between the voters and their two presidential candidates, and between the people and their law enforcement arm of government, and between some segments of the citizenry and those same law enforcement agents, and between select allies and the American government….would be an understatement.

Nevertheless, the media consistently narrows the focus of its reporting to say that the people have an unfavourable view of their two presidential candidates, each attempting to outdo the other with a higher unfavourable rating in opinion polls. To write a story that sets out all of the various nefarious parameters of dissolution of the culture, as has been hinted at above, would be treasonous in many quarters. Publishers and editors would resist letting it through their memory sticks into print, even among the most courageous publications such as

However, it seems only realistic to look at the trust factor’s atrophy through a bigger lens, one that sees the whole panoply of holes in the Swiss cheese of the U.S. political system.

And, while personalizing national issues, as presidential campaigns tend to permit, may satisfy the fast-food appetite of an electorate that demands instant gratification in the service of each and every one of its appetites, including its dumbing down of the complexities of each issue and each personality it is asked to assess, the process is inevitably and inexorably generating a growing gap between those who study and who comprehend the nuances of the issues, and those ‘shooting from the hip’ and asking questions later. In such a culture of deterioration, it is not surprising that a candidate like Trump would seize control of one of the major political parties, able as he is to provide a considerable portion of the funding for the campaign. Hence, he can say and do almost anything, and then proudly announce that “I could shoot and kill someone on Fifth Avenue without losing any voter support.” Of course, the world wants to believe that he is “dead wrong” but we’re really not sure any more so many pundits’ predictions of his early demise and disappearance from the race have come and gone and lie limp in the trash bins and the recycling machines of the world’s press or in the archives of the world’s television stations.

This man simply has no public doubt about his capacity to do whatever ridiculous scheme he dreams up, and the public is so starved for something visceral to gobble and to digest, given what it considers the pablum of talking points, nuanced policies and insults from dictators like Putin, as well as their own joblessness, and their own hopelessness.

And yet, as Eric Sevareid once commentedBetter to trust the man who is frequently in error than the one who is never in doubt.
Read more at:

And in a political culture believing itself starved of potency, uttering personal doubt is forbidden by American Rule #1, if the electorate is making the rules. And they may be….
*Nevertheless, it is not because she is a woman that Hillary Clinton says she regrets her choice of a private server for her emails when she was Secretary of State. 
*It is not because she is a woman that Hillary Clinton has repeatedly acknowledged her failure to bring in universal health care, as First Lady. 
*It is also not because she is female that she publicly acknowledges her grief and her despondency over the loss of four American civilians, including her friend the Ambassador in the Benghazi debacle.
 *It is not because she is a woman that Hillary Clinton, in a sterling interview with Charlie Rose last night on Bloomberg Television, that she has ‘plans’ for many public issues, pokes fun at herself gently saying ‘we all bring different skills’ to public service.

Over against these doubts and potential errors of Ms Clinton, Mr. Trump refuses to admit, at any point over any issue, including the issue of the thousands who have filed a class action law suit against Trump over the debacle called Trump University, any doubts, never mind having made any mistakes. Apparently, if one listens to Mr Trump, one is left with the distinct impression that  the man has never made an error. As a prototype of the 'ideal' American or even a role model American for young people to emulate, Trump is an abject failure.

He might believe that he can convince himself and his acolytes that he can and does ‘walk on water’; however, he cannot and must not convince the American people of his invincibility.

And, as for the long-term future of the republic, whether Toynbee’s foreshadowing can help the American people turn the page and the chapter and even close the book on this angry, violent, abusive, diagnosis and prescription-and-legislation-free dark period in their political life, only the unfolding, or the unravelling of the months and years to come.

And the world will be watching and holding our breath!  


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