2020 was an assault on optimism. Will this year be better?
Amen. Signed, overeducated, underpaid and sexually frustrated.
A tad more serious, a half decade ago, I got the vague vision that I wanted, in fact, needed to "drop out." I felt like a crazy person because I hated the world I found myself living in and the systems and relationships I found myself a slave to. Everyone else seemed to be happy enough in it, why couldn't I be?
I hated the the fact that I felt more like a two dimensional avatar then a three dimensional person. Most people seemed happy enough to live out a life on social media. Maybe they made peace with their fate? When the average person can't afford to have children, to own a home, to afford land to grow things or raise things, to afford to be able to try to launch a business or several businesses, or even to run for office--- all accomplishments in the real world... I guess doing things in a digital world is satisfying enough? It wasn't for me, I felt like I was wasting away.
I deleted my social media accounts and felt better but it still wasn't enough. I felt infected with the shallowness of relating that is an effect of over a decade of hollowing out of possibilities, topped off with people failing to actually develop real lives and real personalities... so surprise, surprise they don't have much interesting to say in conversation, except to repeat memes.
As fate would have it, I found a way to drop out. I'm moving to an 11 acre rural property in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains in South East Ohio. It's a decidedly unhip place (I tried Austin and Los Angeles) that no one is rushing to move to. My neighbors will be Amish families, antiques collectors and other characters, who still live in the analog world.
I love it. My goal is to ween myself as much off digital life as I can. And live some kind of neo-romanticism and try to rebuild an off-line life and community as much as possible with like minds.
As I shared my crazy vision with others, I was shocked about how many other people had the same longings...
Matt you are very on point as usual with this piece. It is a good historical viewpoint.
The elite are hoarding power and money in this country in a nearly unprecedented way. Democracy allows for a some ability for the people to push back, and they did that by electing Trump. Trump's election was the attempt of a democratic populace to take control. And we saw what happens: the elite utilize every possible tool to hold and take back said control: the intelligence communities, every gov't institutional position they hold, the media, etc.
Democracy is under threat, not because of silly election challenges, but because of the fact that the elite classes will be VERY reluctant to give up a hold on power. Trump was the electorate's experimental chemotherapy to attempt to cure what they see as the disease. They accepted his toxicities for four years in the name of curing the country. We shall now see how the disease progresses and what they do next.
This highlights a great, 21st century American irony. Matt is, I believe, a Progressive and I am a Conservative. While that sounds as though we are close to polar opposites politically, based on this piece we seem to see a similar landscape. The irony is our presumed differences will keep us from uniting to fix our mutual landscape.
Those differences can be understood by acknowledging Progressives, not necessarily Democrats, using Yang as an example, want to pile new policies on top of the existing pile of failed policies, making an already massive government more so. Conservatives, not necessarily Republicans, want to jettison the failed policies, trim government, and create a level playing field for all.
It’s too bad we allow the differences to be used, by the status quo crew, as the whip to keep us separated, and them in power. Might this mean the only cure will possibly one day be attempted via violence?
Thanks Matt. Cynically, in my opinion, the vast majority of elected and appointed people at the federal level are human scum. War mongers and killers. On the take through lobbyists, selling their soul for the highest amount. In spite of that, there are still voters who think those pieces of garbage actually care about them. Incredible.
This is a really good “big picture” piece; one of Matt’s best. The cultural & media stuff really resonate. Things are so far gone. You can literally look under any blue-check Tweet about almost anything and see comments ref’ing Trump. (Same for comments in WaPo, my hometown paper.) It’s freaking absurd how brainwashed people are. Yang’s attitude as noted was refreshing, indeed. My choice was Tulsi, after supporting Bernie in ’16, and seeing how “The Bern” went last year, glad I made that jump. Not only did he get scrooged by Liz & the CNN gals who kneecapped him in the debates, then he wouldn’t fight back. Poor Bernie. Tulsi’s attitude was good in a similar way to Yang’s, but it was infuriating to me as a supporter how she was treated by the DNC apparatchiks. As a big #MadMen geek, the bit about consumerism & advertising was icing on the cake of this piece. Speaking of which, I just got my damn 600 bucks so I guess I’ll go blow it on some credit-card paydowns that I’ve already spent. “Happy Year to you – in jail!” – Mr. Potter
It sucks to not be a billionaire. These are the best times to be one. If only I had schemed / lied / stolen more great ideas and then leveraged good will more often for dastardly purposes. Ah well, maybe in my next life...
I wish I could say I was as optimistic as Taibbi but I'm a good deal older and therefore more cynical. The part that's missing from this overview is the "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore" that a goodly number (even if not a majority) that the American public feels. I lived through the 1960s as a child and I remember the highly chilling emotion that anything, any bad thing, was possible and could happen. I'm having deja vu with that emotion right now. Maybe it's because I'm in a little closer proximity to the white working class than Taibbi (and/or many of you), but I'm getting quite worried about their state of mind. Many have been working to ensure that the white upper class could work comfortably from home without the least worry about the virus, but many others are NOT working at all. And nobody seems to be greatly worried about that. I would just remind those who are too young to remember the Hard Hat Riots from the 1960s, that the working class doesn't play by middle class rules and kind of feels like they built the country and they can tear it down again anytime they damn well feel like it. And do they damn well feel like it right now? It kind of feels like they do.
In 2016 I was thinking along the lines that things have to get worse before they can get better (the bipartisan enemy of the people seemed still not apparent to most active voters) and I wondered if we should elect Donald Trump for a better America. Maybe that would help clarify the situation? I think it did but not nearly enough.
Looking back things got a lot worse in 2020 and it was wonderfully clarifying. But that too seem not nearly enough. PMC types I know seem to have their heads in the sand with earnest hope for a Biden/Harris admin. And those in the precariate are, as you said, tired and many have been defeated. The old propaganda supporting this brutal class system still works.
We need to divide the Democratic Party into two genuinely hostile warring factions: corporate vs. populist, using with a persistent campaign of PR and procedural and electoral sabotage (all legal and transparent) to force individuals to choose sides. The terrain is already well defined. The establishment made a big show of how they are actually moderate Republicans at the 2020 DNC in October and that they routed the so-called progressives (including Sanders supporters) up to all but a signed treaty of unconditional surrender.
So what next? The midterms will be a blowout because the party cannot unify around a popular policy agenda and because there's no orange hitler to be better than. So the populists might as well take that opportunity to drive the wedge all the way in and demonstrate that they are ready and willing to make the party completely unelectable for as long as it takes until the corporatists either die off or leave to join the party that better aligns with their politics.
I hope you had a good holiday too. I had staggeringly expensive emergency root canal treatment on Dec 24 and my Obamacare price went up 250% for 2021. It's time to fight the establishment Democrats but this time really fight. None of that pointless polite Sanders nonsense.
Thank you so much -- once again; an amazing overview. Let's try to be optimistic -- although our likely calamity (and soon) is that Hillary's loyal stooge will soon be our President.
Currently, by far the highest need and interest of incoming government and the DNC cabal is that Russia-gate immense hoax and Ukraine impeachment "entertainment" will NOT be exposed -- hence many IOU's to primary propagandists, including despicable Kamala Harris, Neera Tanden, Pete Buttigieg, etc, etc.
Great a usual. You reminded me I wanted to resign from the democratic party and why I wanted to resign, so I did, right in the middle of your article. I am now an independent, non affiliated voter. What the dnc did is FAR more damaging to the USA than any "crime" they could pin on trump. There won't be a counterculture, there will be a revolution, it might be ugly. They have pushed too far.
Jim Crow America.
I always say I like MTs honesty, so just say White MT.
Our betters always of course talk Martin Luther King but live Apartheid.
The actual Jim Crow America was a poorer or modest income version of NYC MT, especially for the most outstanding issue NYC schools, the most segregated in America. They just weren’t sanctimonious hypocrites.
The real sundowner laws were just the honest version of profiling and stop and frisk.
The real Jim Crow America honestly and publicly practiced redlining and zoning instead of burying it in paperwork and coded phrases about “good schools.”
As for White America being conquered and put in its place by its betters; For the Leftists reading you did not conquer Jim Crow or Nazi America, you conquered a bewildered Bedford Falls. That is now much clearer in its thinking.
MT try reading a book about American History that wasn’t written by Howard Zinn.
On December 31st, I pulled out the champagne for a toast with my girlfriend only to find out the fridge died hours before and the champagne was lukewarm. Had to toss the chicken we were marinating so we didn't start the new year fighting over the toilet with dueling cases of salmonella poisoning. Eating last minute delivery pizza and having mediocre liquor store champagne on ice was about the perfect coda to a year full of furloughs and precarity.
Today, the landlord's dropping off a new fridge and this call to optimism was a nice thing to wake up to. Here's to a better 2021.
I once read a sci-fi story where a non-sentient profit algorithm drove a population-wide computer messaging system to increasingly show individuals things that triggered them emotionally to drive engagement in time and ad revenue. The media leaders of this population (it happened all over the world in this story, not just in one country) were the ones the most tied in to this system as natural early adopters of new tech for information flow, and them arriving at groupthink before the others helped drive even wider groupthink for people not even on the messaging systems. It was like unplanned group propaganda, leaving freethinkers in this society bewildered and wondering what to do next. A small band of the freethinkers started to gather in messaging centers but it was not clear what they could do to right the situation.
Oh, sorry, that actually wasn't Asimov, that was just a summary of recent history in modern Earth civilization from 2010-2020.
"what Paul Goodman described as a “style of life dictated by Personnel… to work to pay installments on a useless refrigerator.”
Slightly off topic, but if you want a slice of how true this statement literally has become, I have owned 3 refrigerators in 6 years due to the new ones breaking and Samsung and LG being unwilling to dispatch a qualified repairman/woman to fix them. At least in LG's case, LG refunded the purchase price. Samsung basically told me to sue them. Unironically, there is a class action lawsuit being litigated against Samsung due to their refrigerators.
Alert -- very inside baseball post below.
I lost all faith in the DNC May 31, 2008 when the rules were used to give Obama the nomination over Clinton. I watched this on C-Span.
The DNC Rules Committee left the room and viewers could not see that part.
They came back and made sure Obama got the nomination over HRC.
The Democratic National Committee Rules and Bylaws Committee considered two separate challenges concerning the seating of delegations from Florida and Michigan at the national convention in Denver.
Formal presentations were heard from the challengers and representatives of the Florida and Michigan state Democratic parties and the presidential campaigns of Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The committee then broke for an extended lunch, after which they heard motions on the challenges and remedies to provide representation by delegations at the convention. The committee voted to seat the full delegations of both Michigan and Florida with each delegate casting one half vote. YOU CAN STILL WATCH this.
Thus Iowa in 2020 was no surprise to me.
I agree that we need more optimism in our society. I'm so tired of hearing these blame-shifting shills like Pelosi and McConnell pretending that it's the other side's fault. They go to the same parties, people, their kids go to the same schools. And they are in their 70's for Christ's sake, with 50 year old notions of what's right and wrong. Get em out, man. Send em to pasture - they aren't helping anymore. I think you pointed out that Pelosi settled for this lame as fuck COVID package right after the election, because THEN it wasn't important to seem like a "fighter" (having won reelection). It's so transparent that what we have is people who are really good at BEING ELECTED, not people who are really good at SERVING OTHERS and LEADING. And I don't know how to solve that problem, but it would be a good one to tackle.