There was a time, not so long ago, when a phrase like democratic oligarchy would have been considered oxymoronic. Now, it is being used as a conversation item by a political science professor from Columbia, on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS, in her articulation of the political winds currently blowing in Europe and North America.
In the same conversation, New York Times columnist, Tom Friedman, in ‘selling’ his latest book, Thanks for being late, articulates three dominant trends that are sweeping the globe: globalization, immigration and the environment, all of which he says are converging in a combined force with which leaders and the people will have to deal in the near and medium future.
And then there is the spike in the availability and deployment of digital media, a prime generator of highly spiked information that is blatantly and hubristically untrue.
One media analyst puts it this way: Twitter is the headline generator of the new media, a domain so far fully resourced and even captured by Trump with social media the megaphone of these tweets.
This weekend, both Italy and Austria will be holding votes, the former to reduce the number of legislators, allegedly making it more feasible for the Italian leader to pass legislation, the latter potentially electing the first ‘far right’ leader in Europe, with others waiting impatiently in the wings for their own opportunity within the next year. Great Britain has already voted to exit the European Union, Brexit being the expression of mostly rural voters, those feeling most anxious, if not downright frightened by mass immigration, the loss of jobs and the deaf rule by “professionals” in London, where the vote was strongly in favour of “remaining” in the European Union. Nigel Farage, one of the leaders of the Brexit movement has said that the European Union is about to break apart, partly because countries can no longer determine the value of their own currency, being so tightly tied to the Euro, as a currency for the many countries in Europe.
Clearly, Trump’s campaign was fueled by much of the same octane, a contempt for the professionals by the left-behind. A union worker, a lifetime Democrat, just told the world, on CNN’s Reliable Sources, that it was union workers who created the power of the Democratic Party, and ‘she ignored us by not hearing or listening to us’. ("She" is a direct reference to Hillary Clinton!
The yin and yang concept in Chinese philosophy seems so foreign to both the news coverage of politics and especially the manipulation of the dark and light forces by Trump in his every utterance. Even George W. Bush publicly declared, “I do not do nuance!” almost as a signature of hubris. However, the American conventional perspective on reality, that there are “good guys” and “bad guys” is not only antithetical to a full and robust debate about public policy but counter to truth and reality.
The yin and yang in Chinese philosophy describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Many tangible dualities (such as light and dark, fire and water, expanding and contracting) are thought of as physical manifestations of the duality symbolized by yin and yang. This duality lies at the origins of many branches of classical Chinese science and philosophy, as well as being a primary guideline of traditional Chinese medicine, and a central principle of different forms of Chinese martial arts and exercise, such as baguazhang, taijiquan (t'ai chi), and qigong (Chi Kung), as well as appearing in the pages of the I Ching.
Duality is found in many belief systems, but Yin and Yang are parts of a Oneness that is also equated with the Tao. A term has been coined dualistic-monism or dialectical monism. Yin and yang can be thought of as complementary (rather than opposing) forces that interact to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts.Everything has both yin and yang aspects, (for instance shadow cannot exist without light). Either of the two major aspects may manifest more strongly in a particular object, depending on the criterion of the observation. The yin yang (i.e. taijitu symbol) shows a balance between two opposites with a portion of the opposite element in each section.
In Taoist metaphysics, distinctions between good and bad, along with other dichotomous moral judgments, are perceptual, not real; so, the duality of yin and yang is an indivisible whole. In the ethics of Confucianism on the other hand, most notably in the philosophy of Dong Zhongshu (c. 2nd century BC), a moral dimension is attached to the idea of yin and yang. Wikipedia)
Carl Jung’s insight includes an important example of the yin/yang concept through such a concept as androgyny, in which a portion of masculinity and femininity are in each gender. However, we are bombarded by voices claiming their truth is the ONLY truth, and their opponents are espousing evil concepts…and the same is true in reverse.
So, whether political ideology is a subject (both theory and practice) on which yin/yang is appropriately applied, as are physical properties of light/dark, fire/water, expanding/contracting might for some be an open question. For our purposes, let’s make at least one attempt to see if there is a fit.
Propaganda is a style of language which seems to reflect a propensity to twist truth and reality to something fitting the ego, the ideology (if there is one) and the motive and will to power of those whose existence depends on the receptivity of its nuggets conveyed in ads, political campaign speeches, and reportage. And, overlaying the current political situation, whether focused on North America or the wider world, is a growing, dark and threatening cloud of propaganda and an enhanced mattress of digital information on the demographics and their various “marketing niches”, thereby enabling propagandists to target misinformation to specific audiences to manipulate their votes, as well as their purchasing preferences.
What we would today consider “kindergarten” propaganda fills Orwell’s 1984, in which “War is Peace” is only one glaring example. Yet, Orwell was writing at a very different time, when the totalitarian spectre of political control was already rising on the political horizon in Great Britain and the world. There was no internet, and no marketing sophistication, and no globalization, and no corporate financial dominance in political campaigns, no 24-7-365 news coverage and reporting and no social media when Orwell put pen to paper. (How seemingly archaic!)
Nevertheless, rather than human attitudes, perceptions and requirements of discernment between fact and fiction, between propaganda and information, between political argument and emotional massaging, developing to a much more clear, honest and magnified level given the tools now at our universal disposal, the reverse is happening, based on the kind and degree of fear, contempt, hatred bigotry and exclusion of “the other” whomever that group might be to the various publics.
Rather than Oceania being first an ally and then a war enemy (from 1884), everyone, including every group that is not “like” me, is the instant enemy, for anyone seeking public office. This nugget (whether it is considered a piece of ‘inside’ information for marketing or for political campaigns) can be and has been and will continue to be “played” on by everyone seeking public office, and every marketing and political consultant in the future. So, for the purposes of “messaging,” instant enemies need daily underlining, repetition, headlines, twitter feeds, and especially those generated by presidential candidates.
Social media, an information “organ” that depends for its very existence on hatred, on gossip, on conflict, and on character assassination loves a voice/talking head/persona who takes on his/her enemies with a vengeance, acting like the latest iteration of John Wayne in the latest ‘western’ cowboy movie. Power “heroes” or “super-heroes” are so in demand by a populace feeling so deeply and profoundly disempowered, given their projections of strength (rather than owning their own opportunities to take responsibility for their own lives, in the face of reality) onto those promising to deliver “answers” to their perceived problems as to have virtually paved the freeway for reality television practitioners/propagandists/authoritarians/presidential candidates.
However, as the object of projections from people who believe they have been eunuched by forces beyond their control, such “digital heroes” consider themselves compelled to feed those deep neuroses that underlie those projections, generating a tickertape parade of one-dimensional, exaggerated, simplistic, reductionistic and clearly unachieveable “tweets” and speeches, and policy statements designed for the specific purpose of propagandizing/manipulating their audience, especially those already committed to the cause of the candidate speaking. Such was/is/will always be the modus operandi of Trump.
Build the wall, block Muslims, de-fang all trade treaties, character assassinate Mexicans, Muslims, insult blacks with “what the hell have you got to lose?” defame and insult women with vulgar womanizing while pretending to be the ‘strongest supporter of women”…..this is just some of the bologna in the sandwiches served by the Trump-fast-food machine…and they were gobbled by a starved and voracious appetite among the hinterland.
Even millions of women, expected to vote for the first female candidate for the White House, voted for Trump, because they did not “like” or ‘trust’ Ms Clinton. And so the potential for cultural androgyny, that was implicit in the election of Ms Clinton, given the history of over two hundreds years of male occupants of the Oval Office, was lost. Her “basket of deplorables” comment was an unforgiveable mis-step that significantly contributed to her defeat.
However, when will it be feasible, and possible and demonstrated in fact by both political leaders and the media fraternity that there is a deep and profound danger to a perception of the universe that is:…
· black/white, winner/loser, truth/lies,
· in which yin denies the existence of yang,
· in which hyper-masculinity defies androgyny,
· in which propaganda drowns the slightest sliver of the light of truth,
· in which foreign powers (Russia, for instance) conduct cyber-invasions to inflict itself on “democratic” elections,
· in which global warming and climate change deniers win the presidential election, and
· in which immediate narcissistic needs are able to eradicated epic threats to human existence?
The Chinese yin/yang conception of reality, even as it applies to the campaign promises of political candidates, and as it applies to the national education goals and the programs that undergird them, and as it applies to the growing disenchantment of co-operation and collaboration of various enlightened leaders around the world. Binary conceptions of the universe, just like bi-lateral trade treaties, “making ME/US great again” (at the expense of the other) is a rabbit hole in our understanding of ourselves, our neighbours, our towns and cities, our states and provinces, and our nations.
Now it is time for those who have the many and varied bully pulpits to enhance their concept of their role and purpose to include, at both the highest decision-making levels, as well as in the kindergarten and pre-school class rooms, the important, even essential concept that yin/yang is not a communistic, nationalistic, historic or demographic concept.
And its time in the history of human kind has long ago come. When will we wake up to its gifts?