America, Donald Trump, and the Triumph of the Lie

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Ω             The Triumph of the Lie               Ω


The Trump victory represents the Triumph of the Lie.


That public men publish falsehoods
Is nothing new. . . .

Be angry at the sun for setting
If these things anger you.

–Robinson Jeffers



And Trump’s victory is the triumph of capitalism. For Donald Trump is the perfect capitalist: selfish, vulgar, bigoted, privileged. The worshipper of Mammon and no other gods.


Trump is proof that all it takes to make money is money.

Trump’s entire focus will be on self-aggrandizement.

All things are to be judged by money, and money alone.



It is ironic that Trump got his victory through the Electoral College, created by the Federalists to protect the government from democracy, because


the people will follow the first demagogue who comes along and inflames their passions.


Or, again, it is not ironic. The program of the anti-democrats was to protect PROPERTY from the masses of the people, where PROPERTY, for the most part, WAS people.



Triumph of the Lie. We might call the Trump administration our first “post-modern” presidency, where fact and fiction are both just “stories.” As a storyteller myself, that stories are indeed true does not mean that there are no facts, or that there are no lies.


Lies are the weapons of demagogues and tyrants, the self-serving delusions of narcissists, and the enemies of free civil society.



The United States of America, 2017, is utterly different from Germany of 1933. German power was concentrated in the army. American power is concentrated in corporations: especially banks and financial corporations, oil corporations, and military contractors.


I have resisted the comparisons of Trump to Hitler. Consider: Hitler was an artist, a self-made man, a street brawler and a gifted orator. He was arrested and imprisoned for armed insurrection. He endured a year of prison, wrote a book, got released, and rebuilt the outlawed Nazi Party virtually from scratch until they were powerful enough to meet the Communists on their own blocks and beat them up. There is, in short (I thought), no comparison.


Still, it is eerie how closely Trump has followed Hitler’s play book. And we should not forget that Hitler’s first campaign, once he got a little power, was to muzzle and tame the press.


“They’re all liars,” sayeth the Liar.



Politicians have always lied, but usually there is some shame when they are caught. When the Lie fully triumphs, lies are told and repeated over and over, even, or especially, if they are obvious falsehoods.



When Nixon lied; it was deliberate and he knew he was lying. Trump just lies from habit, and for fun. To Trump it’s a game, and shameless. If he gets caught, he shrugs, smiles, and tells some other lie.



The Lie is poisonous to civic discourse. “Civic discourse” can be critiqued by Marxists as a bourgeois illusion, and by overly cerebral post-modern philosophers as whatever, but what are the options? Kleptocracy (the Russian system, rule by gangsters), or plutocracy (rule by corporations, the Exxon Disneyworld option). Or perhaps hereditary monarchy, which might be the most benign alternative to bourgeois civitas.



The triumph of the lie is the triumph of division and mistrust.


Lies and nonsensical pronouncements will serve primarily as distractions, that we not see their fingers in the public till.


Watch the money. Follow the money. Money is what matters to Trump and his family. Money will be at the center of much of what Trump does. (And money, perhaps, will be his downfall.)


Lies will distract us from the further erosion of civil liberties, and from the free passes being given to polluters.


Expect daily installments of the spectacle: especially if Trump is caught in some outrageous lie. Another will fall on the heels of the last.



Debord’s “Spectacle” has been fulfilled: images have assumed hegemony. This spectacle is the hypnosis of earth-denial normalized.


The task of our art is to invert that. To de-normalize.



Guy Debord outlined the Society of the Spectacle fifty years ago. With the Triumph of the Lie and the ubiquity of mediated communication, have we entered “post-spectacular society?”


The question, in post-spectacular society, is “Do Bodies Matter?”

The tycoons, the Liars, and the Earth Deniers are betting that they don’t. This may be their fatal mistake.



The Trump Administration, if it can’t be somehow stopped, will be worse than any of us wish to imagine. Corruption will be rampant. Great numbers of people will be brutalized through economics. Civic duty will be replaced by predation and the clear-cutting of the commons.



He’s a liar. He’s not going to change. He’s just going to tell more lies.

Ω Ω An Assessment of the Present Danger      Ω



Let’s make a first pass attempt at triage, to prioritize present dangers. For starters:


1) Long term damage to the life of the sentient beings of planet Earth, all beings bipedal, furry, scaly, finny, winged, wriggling, or green and rooted.

That is, there is danger to their lives, the lives of their progeny, the viability of their gene pool, and the viability of their habitats.


2) Damage of geological scale to the planet Earth: planetary scale pollution, human destruction of global habitat, climate change of geologic time scale: tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years.


3) Damage to the social fabric of the human communities of planet Earth, including the American republic. By, first, the disruption of all traditional economies by global corporate capitalism, and, concurrently, the destruction of traditional values by the amoral machinations of “the market.”  And by lies.


By allowing money to be the rule of all things, the demonic forces of greed, lies, and coercion inevitably tend to give the most predatory persons and cartels free access to the public trust. The rise of authoritarian regimes leads to the seizure of the commons by the powerful and the monetization of public lands, public airspace, every public marketplace, and to the sort of vast corruption we are more used to in “third-world” countries.



Massive extinctions and repeated decimations are already underway. This massive death is abetted by pressures from high birth rates in “developing” countries and by high consumption rates in the “developed” countries. Continued carbon burning and global warming will lead to widespread degradation of life, and the destruction of much that is beautiful. Human predation from hunger, from poverty, or from greed are eliminating large wild mammals from the planet Earth.



Plutocratic state capitalism is destroying the peoples, cultures, resources, and health of the whole planet Earth. Monetization of every resource, of every aspect of culture, of, in fact, ethics and morality, will indeed warp human life into a war of all against all.

Ω Ω Ω                The Worship of Idols and False Gods               Ω Ω Ω


Ω Ω Ω   

Of immediate threats to life on planet Earth, nuclear war and nuclear accidents are certainly near the top of the list. But global corporatism is not far behind.


It is the nature of a corporation, under current charter, to maximize monetary profit. That is its sole morality. A corporation is the spirit of greed given a body. Buddhists call the entities of limitless craving pretas—“hungry ghosts.” Zen students give the hungry ghosts small offerings out of compassion, even knowing they can never be satisfied. But to conjure forth the spirits of greed and craving, and then by magical writs to give them corporeal body and immortality, and then to release them out of the magic circle to prey and feed on the world of sentient beings–that is daylight madness.


Ω Ω Ω   

What reason does such a hungry spirit have to spare anything? It is not a human being. It is not a sentient being. It is the spirit of greed given the power to hire human servants and to grow and self-replicate. Until that charter is changed by law or revolution, palliative measures, at best, buy a little time.


Ω Ω Ω   

Thales, our first philosopher, proved the fallacy of “The Market” 2500 years ago by cornering the supply of olives, and then charging exorbitant prices.


Is that honest work? Or is it more like stealing lunch money from the little kids?


By the logic of The Market: why give medical care to the poor at all? No money there!


It is poverty that gives money power, coercive power. That in desperation for money men will do anything. (Or, said another way, that everything has its price.)


Ω Ω Ω   

Money is also a phantasm. We have given it so much power that now we are its slaves. We created “economy,” which should be housekeeping, but instead is a poisonous lash on our backs, wielded by the “invisible” slavemaster’s hand. All the nations of planet Earth are now ensnared within its web. Fundamentally, none of it is “necessary.” We could invent a different system.


Money does not represent time, wealth, or anything–other than itself. Economists accept money as a given, as a fact of nature, that’s their job, but it’s not. Money is a recent bit of cultural fabrication, like the state.


Ω Ω Ω   

Never forget that it is poverty that gives money power. Without poverty, money would still have value, but not the coercion of thralldom.


Ω Ω Ω   

Any society based on monetary profit will tend to be predatory and destructive, even without state corporatism. To mitigate this tendency to predation, societies develop morays, traditions, and shame.


Children are taught to share, to be a part of the larger social unit, to perform ritual and caretaking duties. Selfish greed is the mark of a sociopath.


Ω Ω Ω   

With state corporatism, that is, with a system based upon entities dedicated to growth and profit without regard to the welfare of others, all futures are dim. Ruination of the fields and the utter depletion of the commons is an inevitable result. Do the math.


ΩΩΩΩ  Why (sadly) the Election Doesn’t Matter, And Why (sadly) It Does  ΩΩΩΩ



The Democrats are as much to blame here as the Republicans: they are both partners in supporting corporate hegemony. A Democratic victory would not have helped in addressing these core problems. In Ken Knabb’s words:


Obama’s smooth, genial persona enabled him to get away with war crimes, massive deportations, and all sorts of corporate compromises (not a single criminal banker prosecuted) with few people paying attention and fewer still protesting.

–Ken Knabb


Not to mention Obama’s vigorous prosecution of whistleblowers—far beyond what George W. Bush did.



The US has a long record of using its national power, both diplomatic and armed, to support and protect corporate interests—over fifty interventions in Latin America in a hundred years.



In the last fifty years, the Democratic Party, aside from the Sanders insurgency, which was put down, has shown little interest in confronting corporate power. Neo-liberal pundits will give reasoned explanations that inequality is not a problem as long as those at the bottom are rising also. Which they are not. And which argument would be false anyway.


Since the Clinton presidency, the Democrats have been the best Republicans on the block.



That said, the Republicans seem bent on accruing short term monetary profits by selling off all public investments and programs, and then putting day to day expenses on the national credit card. That’s their absurd idea that government should be a business—a business that enriches tycoons.


We must remember Gary Snyder’s admonition that the first rule of business is that we are in business for our health.



That said, with Trump the despoiling of the fields and the raiding of the public treasury and attack on the public weal will move into high gear.


And we should resist.  We should resist the despoilers. For planet Earth we should resist. For the beauty of planet Earth we should resist the ugliness.



The rise of right-wing nationalism (characterized by racism, xenophobia, and authoritarianism and generally “might makes right” ethos) in America, England, Europe, and around the world is the embrace of the death drive by the desperate, akin to panic spending by those on the verge of bankruptcy. With continued depletion of resources, continued degradation of the environment ( the “commons”), and greater and greater economic division between the super-rich and ninety percent, this trend will probably continue. Just a hunch.



Historically, emergency powers have been the tipping point upon which more than one republic has toppled. Hitler used the Reichstag fire to imprison tens of thousands of his political enemies, gut organized labor, and shackle the press. Osama bin Laden’s attack on the World Trade Center enabled the Bush Administration to invade Iraq, a country not involved with the attack, to create a huge, new, security force, and to initiate massive surveillance on American citizens.


A narcissistic authoritative personality such as Donald Trump would have no scruples in suspending civil liberties, if, say, there were another terrorist attack—say in Washington D.C., at the Congress or at the White House.



It may be difficult to gauge the relative danger of world nuclear stockpiles of 1000 vs. 5000 vs. 15,000 warheads. But the threat is directly correlated to which direction the number is moving. If the world nuclear powers are saying “this is crazy, let’s reduce the number of nuclear weapons,” the threat of nuclear catastrophe is a lot less than if  all sides are building more, which implies that someone thinks that they can get an edge. “You can destroy us ten times over, but I can destroy you 100 times over.”



Journalists, especially in the mainstream media, will face some tough choices: to call a lie a lie and forget about that raise, or, perhaps, decide, in the interests of “balanced” journalism to present the lie as one of two “differing viewpoints.”


Large monetary and professional rewards will be offered to anyone with a bullhorn willing to give the new gang a break.



The myth of growth is so pervasive that it passes unnoticed. Who does not express “grow the economy” as an admirable goal?


Growth is an adolescent thing. With maturity, growth should be inward. Capitalism is an economic system stuck in adolescence.


It’s not about replacing bad people. It’s the system, stupid.



The erosion of civic values and their replacement by corporate values will logically put predators into power, where “predators” mean those who got rich screwing other people. While corruption has never been rare in government, under corporate predators corruption will be vast, open, and shameless, hidden in plain sight by lies, and only limited, if limited at all, by laws and courts, no longer by custom, shame, or “decency.”



Why should we care?  Anarchists may object: it’s not my job to support the capitalist state in its death throes.  Buddhists may object: you can only save the world one person at a time, yourself. Marxist critique may say that the worse it gets, the sooner the revolution will come. All these arguments have some merit, and the historical crimes of America are indeed great. Still.


It is not to defend America, nor the capitalist state that I stand up, but that corruption not be “just the way things are,” and that the last living giraffe not die in some billionaire’s private game reserve.



Is There Hope?


From the standpoint of large, wild mammals? From the standpoint of tens of thousands of other species?  Little.


For doing something that is beautiful and true, in standing up to the Lie?

Yes, if we stand together.


For dispelling the incorporated hungry ghost? In changing the assumptions and aim of the economy? In breaking the spell of money?



nobody home.

Or hey, ho,

still we will be merry.

ΩΩΩΩΩ        The Way of Mindful Transgression        ΩΩΩΩΩ



The great challenge of Mindful Transgression is to answer a lie with something that is not a lie.


Even if that answer creates awkwardness, or obstruction, or dissonance.



The specific ways for each of us to resist depends a lot on individual temperament. But you have to do something, and the Theater of Resistance, by its nature, provides manifold opportunities for personal growth—that is, to do things you’ve never done before.


Maybe that’s as simple as personally visiting the office of your local Member of Congress, as Michael Moore and Robert Reich suggest.



Massive demonstrations will be absolutely necessary. Massive demonstrations are needed to show support for lawmakers to resist Trump and his minions. Massive demonstrations are needed to show Trump that the majority of Americans do not support him. Massive demonstrations are needed to express our mourning—where we can all wear black arm bands.


“Sad.”  You betcha.


Massive demonstrations are for us, to create an “us,” and to banish loneliness and alienation.



Some of our “hipper” intellectuals have said that demonstrating doesn’t do any good. That is absolutely untrue. ANY time large numbers of people take to the streets, it is significant. In the last thirty years massive peaceful demonstrations have brought down a dozen governments around the world. Massive peaceful demonstration may be the ONLY way to bring down a repressive or corrupt regime.


That is why freedom of assembly is usually curtailed even before freedom of speech. We have to get out there, with or without a parade permit.



Some will not help us. Some deem politics to be an impure or useless endeavor. Don’t let them shame you. Art is a higher calling.


And while “truth,” “higher truth,” “ultimate truth,” or “fundamental truth” may be subtle and difficult to discern, lies are not.



Not everyone has the temperament for the Practice of Everyday Subversion—that’s probably good. And no wonder. Most sensible people would opt for serenity.


But for the creatively inclined, mindful everyday subversion is intimately linked with artistic expression.


Make it beautiful.

Make it a situation.



Joe Hill said: organize!

Find an affinity group. Or start one.

(Or, for us loner types, join whatever group is marching by that you like the looks of.)



We need puppeteers to fight the puppets. We need public theater and inspired “situations.” We need some poets to get up on their soap boxes. We need more public art. We need some vibrancy and the courage to speak truth.



We need a lot more MINDFUL TRANSGRESSION. Mindful transgression is the ancient and primordial practice of all great buddhas and bodhisattvas. Some have called mindful transgression the art of drawing reality to a fine point. Others have called it the art of lifting a flower. For some it is finding exactly the right moment to knock over a vase of water.


In all of our spiritual practices, active presence in the world is the most challenging. Encounters in the dojo, or in the ashram, are more like rehearsals. Some never take their practice to the street. I’ve known Zen teachers who never interact with outsiders. We can only try to teach our teachers by example.


We take a stand against invisibility. Is being invisible more fundamentally “spiritual” than wearing a bright clown nose?


There is certainly an art to moving through the world invisibly. We can only be thankful that the Buddha was not among those who practiced it.



Robert Aitken told me how Thich Nhat Hahn would practice “blocking” on sidewalks in Manhattan. Just by walking slowly.  Then if two or three others were to join them, and they walked abreast, they would pretty much block the whole sidewalk.


Thinking of the highly annoying people who get into the fast lane and then drive slow, I asked: “Why is it more enlightened to go slow than to go fast?”


Aitken answered: “I don’t think Thich Nhat Hahn’s purpose was enlightenment; I think his purpose was just to cause trouble.”


And there you have it.

Maybe it’s easier to get away with if you wear orange robes.



We are trained to be mannerly. That is, not to offend. That is, not to create a ruckus. That is, not to question authority. (And maybe especially, spiritual authority.)  Don’t raise a stink. Don’t make others uncomfortable. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Just fit in. This is the way of social harmony.


Or is it?



Mindful Transgression is speaking the truth about the Emperor. And, given a chance, to the Emperor.


And Mindful Transgression is a path of “personal self cultivation,” … some realms of expression are difficult to master, or even glimpse, sitting on a cushion.  


Bestowing bliss in the marketplace does not necessarily mean handing out candy and saying things that make everyone feel good.



Mindful Transgression: you have to be ready to give your time, because people will react.


If you transgress with anger it will fail, and will hurt your own psyche and soul. But if you can make it a gift, creating awkwardness can be liberating.



At the bank (where, in several steps, I was taking out my money and transferring it to a credit union, which, listen, at best is just slightly less culpable of rape and pillage) the young, well-scrubbed clerk, a poor kid with an MBA for all I knew, working for peanuts, asked me if there was anything else he could do for me.


I asked him if it was true that Wells Fargo invested in private prisons. A mystified look came over his face. “Look,” I said, “I know it’s none of your doing. But is it true that the Wells Fargo corporation invests in private prisons?”


He didn’t know. But he called over his supervisor. And, after further discussion, me saying “I read it in an article on the internet, I’m just trying to find out if it is true,” the supervisor called her boss.


It ended up being quite a to-do, the question ratcheting its way up the chain of command. You have to be ready to give some time to your art.


And I wanted to maintain my good relations with the clerks—it wasn’t their doing. But that turned out to be difficult. They got defensive. They felt that they personally had to defend the corporation. And that gave us something else to talk about.


They finally came up with some evidence that Wells Fargo had divested itself of private prison stocks. I had to accept that, at least for the moment. I thanked them all profusely.


With further research, I found public corporate records showing that Wells Fargo still had private prison stock. But I thought it was a good day’s work. I hadn’t really been prepared for the seriousness of the reaction of the bank employees, and I wasn’t completely comfortable with being the lead actor in the spotlight for so long.


But still.



You say, “demonstrating, civil disobedience, will only play into the hands of power. It will give them the excuse for mass arrests.”


If we fear that, the threat alone has triumphed.


It’s like thinking you can change the mind of a liar with facts, or with reason, or by appealing to their better nature.


You say, “Look, you are calling them “they,” that is the root of ignorance. Until you transcend the we-they paradigm you will only make things worse.


You may be right. After we put out the fire, we can talk about that further.



To repeat. Without massive resistance to the pirates, and massive support for those willing to stand up against them, damage to the earth, to her peoples, animals, and cultures, will be far worse, far more abusive, far uglier, that any of us can now imagine.



This is not the time to sit it out. Get off you cushions, you zennies. Come out of your retreat centers, you spiritual seekers. Stand up in your taverns you spirituous  drinkers. Plot dissent in your vapors, you legalized hashishans. C’mon kids, it’s gonna be YOUR world. Show us how.


Civilly, say no. Politely, stand your ground. Or obstruct. Or disrupt.


“Free country!”       Remember that?


We do it for our sleep, and that our dreams have joy.



General Strike and Block Party:

or, perhaps,    Block Party first.           In the streets.


Or, as Falstaff said,

a play . . .


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