Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Nihilism Stands At The Door - The New American Pessimism

“Nihilism stands at the door,” wrote Nietzsche. 
“Whence comes this uncanniest of all guests?”
There has been nothing like the Trump campaign in American political history and perhaps not in history, period, which means that everything that happens is unexplored territory. As those of us with a degree of reason try to understand whence this whirlwind of self destruction comes from, where it leads, and why it exists at all, we may be focused on the wrong parameter. We look to the individual psychology of Donald Trump, which I suggest is a thick  narcissistic morass of opaque self aggrandizement and little else...a  deeply uninteresting phenomenon.
There is almost literally nothing there. Though Trump has a public persona, he has no personality. Any theory we come up with looking at Trump himself is doomed to fail because there is nothing there to observe. His persona exists only in terms of a larger field of observation...  the contemporary American disorder of which Trump is but one especially acrimonious and disgraceful manifestation.

Donald Trump is behaving very much like a megalomaniacal billionaire with no qualifications would be expected to behave if he wanted to be elected president. (It's doubtful he wants to actually be president, but he wants to be elected. There is a difference. Perhaps not so subtle). He's an opportunist, tapping into a vast angry and fearful audience.  Does he believe a word of his rhetoric?
I doubt it, I'm not sure there is any evidence that he remembers his own rhetoric from day to day...he feeds the beast whatever the beast has an appetite for.

Maybe the question we should ask is why he’s doing such a nonsensical thing at all? Or why he has been so successful with this essentially suicidal rhetoric? How large is the segment of the population that is hell bent on self destruction anyway? 

The emergence of Trump as the inexplicable champion of working class white men, evangelical bible bangers, and retirees who watch way too much Rupert Murdoch programming on TV tells us less about him than about the country whose bowels he came from.  Trump is riding the crest of a wave of nihilistic rampage, acting out a deep-seated national desire for self-destruction that runs parallel to America’s more optimistic self-image and interacts with it sporadically. He is trafficking in pseudo-uplifting nostrums about "making America great again" and how much “we” will “win” once he is president. But he has never offered any specific ideas or policy proposals, only incoherent fantasies that combine unilateralism with a police state and total war against amorphous enemies in a great game of nuclear wack-a-mole.
He just released an economic agenda...surprise angry workers! Same old trickle down bullshit that benefits Trump's income bracket and no one else.  But his supporters won't really care.
They are hell bent on destruction. The rhetoric of which isn't important.
I have never believed that even his most vocal supporters take his proposals about the bazillion-dollar border wall, the deportation of all undocumented immigrants, or the exclusion of all Muslims seriously...this is pure fantasy.  Those things represent a yearning toward the imaginary and the impossible. It's a nihilistic rejection of all reality. No candidate who proposes such things — or who asks why we can’t use nuclear weapons, since we have them — is actually selling hope or optimism of any kind.
No way, no how, my friends.

I don't believe Donald Trump’s suicide mission is a personal one. He wants to be president but doesn’t know why really, and he's got no idea whatsoever what he would do with the office should he actually win it.
Trump wishes only for his own glorification; he isn’t intelligent enough or complicated enough to yearn for his own destruction. It's a uniquely American sort of Nihilism.

In practice, is there a desire to lose the election, with the side benefit of endangering democracy by claiming that the system is corrupt and the results were rigged?  I'd say that is a good guess.  Trump’s suicide mission is ultimately about something much larger than his own presidential campaign, and also much larger than demographic clichés about the declining white majority. It's a disturbing self destructive penchant and it's not going away anytime soon.


Rebecca Stamm said...

I have toyed with the idea of Trump running purposefully against Hillary Clinton to help her get elected. I have envisioned this fantastic private dinner at one of Trump's hotels, where he and the Clintons feast on an extraordinary Trump steak.

Melania is sitting next to Trump daftly staring at her reflection in the half-empty, golden champagne glass in front of her, daydreaming of the hot doorman she'll sneak out to see when Donald is away on his next business trip.

Bill is sitting next to Hillary but directly across from Melania. He is trying to drown out the sound of his wife's shrill cackle as she laughs at something that idiot Donald said. Bill's eyes wander down Melania's neck to her barely concealed breasts below, and he begins to roll the cigar Trump had given him earlier between his fingers thinking, "How did I end up with this shrew when I could be banging that every night."

Trump is blathering on about all of his many accomplishments and the superior quality of the steaks, attempting to enlighten the group with his plans of making steaks great again, oblivious to the fact that Bill has slipped off one loafer and is attempting to run his big toe up Melania's thigh.

Hillary is oblivious to nothing, and stares disbelievingly at the other three, concealing her disbelief with her best campaign smile. She laughs appropriately at Don's jokes which are always in poor taste, and ignores her buffoon of a husband's egregious behavior under Melania's skits, thinking, "It's my turn now. I will be the first female President." Then she casually suggests the plan, making Don and Bill think it's their idea, and cackles with delight at the suggestion of Don running for President but throwing the election so Hillary can win. She jokes about a donation to her Presidential run, and Trumps takes out his checkbook.

Benjamin E. New Esq. said...

Thanks for the thoughtful comment Rebecca.
Though that scenario is a tempting one, as it explains Trump's rather inexplicable transformation from moderate pro-Democratic positions and statements up until 2008 to reinventing himself as a right wing lunatic. Though I think in reality none of these people have the kind of foresight to have predicted (in 2008) what sort of scenario they'd be dealing with in 2016. And it was shortly after Obama was elected in 2008 when Trump began the "birther" nonsense. (The birther movement was well underway, he just grabbed the mantle).
I have no clue what the impetus is, but I suspect it's more a case of Trump toying with the idea of running (he's threatened to a couple of times before) for his own grandeur.
Then realizing he couldn't run successfully as a Democrat, and there was no real path for an independent...and particularly how easy it would be to get the Republican base fanatically in his camp simply by spouting exactly what they wanted to hear. Personally I think he made a pragmatic decision based on just how easily an angry mob can be manipulated. He certainly doesn't care about American jobs, as all his products are manufactured in offshore sweatshops...even those Make America Great red hats ironically.
He's an oddity, an empty suit with no personality, merely a public persona.
He realizes there is not enough fame in being a game show host and simply wants to be elected to get the fame that comes from it...he's got no clue what he would actually do if he won the office. He's told his VP candidates during the vetting process that they would be the most powerful VP in history. They'd be in charge foreign and domestic policy.
So what would Mr. Trump do then?
"He'll be making America great".

Rebecca Stamm said...

I agree that he has "no clue what he would actually do if he won the office." In fact, I don't really think he'll even accept the job if elected, which would make an interesting conundrum for the entire country, since, as far as I know, that's never happened before. But I really do have a lot of fun imagining the scenario above, don't you? I think it would make an excellent short film or sitcom, and we could probably get Donald and Melania to play themselves.

And incidentally, the only way to "Make America Great Again" is for all citizens to become more involved in politics at all levels. Americans have been sleeping for far too long. It's time to wake up and realize our government has enslaved us to them and large corporations making it nearly impossible to survive. We have to wake up to the issues, read bills, support credible, non-profit news sites, and start spreading real information rather than the crap the shills in the mainstream shove at us every 5 minutes.

Perhaps if we were all more involved before Citizens United we wouldn't be facing down the barrel of a loaded gun (literally and figuratively). We must all do more than just our parts. We must be diligent in holding these assclown employees of ours accountable.