Jobs are never coming back to the United States. The price of labor, with benefits and wages, is simply too high to compete with international sweatshops. Trump’s worship of business clashes directly with his protectionism. It is an incoherent worldview.
Once Tesla’s self-driving cars become a reality, truck drivers will be the first out of business. They’re all blue-collar Trump supporters, as stereotype would have you. Cab drivers are also out. Once fast food businesses are automated, throw tens of millions more jobs into the ether. What is going to happen to the notion of labor being tied to wages? The world is moving in an inhuman direction, in that humans are no longer needed for most functions. The US has lost 5 million manufacturing jobs since NAFTA, but most of these losses were due to technological expansion and the inevitable march of American labor into no-man’s-land. Venture capital and Wall Street have already destroyed the concept of labor, the dignity of producing something and earning a wage, as those who produce nothing, and gamble, and collect rent, are those who make all major economic gains. That is true of Obama’s faux ‘recovery’ post-2008, where most new jobs were part-time and insufficient, and wealth earned was mostly concentrated at the top. Trump is more like Obama and the Clintons than anyone else. His strategy will be similar – to make the Dow Jones and GDP look great, without admitting that those gains only benefit the white-collar professional class, speculators, and rentiers, such as those who operate the Trump brand, and who have donated to the Clinton foundation for political favors.
A universal basis income (UBI) seems to be the only way out of this dilemma of the future death of labor. Simply by virtue of being born, you are entitled to an apartment, healthcare, food, water, and utilities. This is paid for by the taxation of enormous companies who will inevitably become completely synthesized with international governance. The problem is that there is no future which does not include totalitarianism. As technology advances, the individuality and nuance of the human race will become even more integrated with the stream of digital information, and swept away in its excesses. After all, everyone has the same access to all the information in the world. Everyone is replaceable. There will be a million books published a year, what worth will writers and thinkers such as myself even have? Blue collar jobs will be automated away and the arts will be left to the franchises, to the corporate focus-testers, as they pump out a Rogue One every few days and a self-help Malcolm Gladwell-esque book every week. Every corporation will applaud and promote diversity and kindness. Human language will become newspeak, as terminology such as ‘lit’, ‘extra’, ‘deadass’ will accelerate and form pockets of hyper-stylized and hip humanity incapable of communication outside of their bubbles. Human beings will fracture into digital ponds, separate from one another, united only by the surveillance state coupled with corporate mastery. It will be the polished paradise of total conformity, because no human action will matter. The greatest of art will be seen by only a dozen people while mass culture becomes cheaper and more entertaining, omnipresent. Listicles, corporatized hip-hop, celebrity activism and corporate brands will be the flavor of the human race, permeating all aspects of society and creating a corporate-activist complex that promotes total conformity. And all this has nothing to do with Trump! Trump is the last gasp of an old world. By 2050 Europe will be majority-Muslim. America will be majority non-white. The future still belongs to the diverse-corporate right-leaning center, the world of Cory Booker, Katy Perry, Hillary Clinton and total technocracy coupled with mediocre culture and shallow philosophies. “Diversity is Liberation” read a sign at an anti-Trump rally I attended. Indeed, as Cornel West said, ‘neoliberalism in blackface’ is the future. And of course diversity is our future. The white male ownership of the world is fading, and white identity politics is an attempt to hold on to quicksand. There is no right answer going forward. The right and the left will be absolutely unified, and the name of unification is sleek, polished, corporate obedience delivered via Buzzfeed, MTV, R&B music and the Beyonce twins.
It seems to me that music is the reflection of the cultural soul. Music today, however, is a far-cry from the rock and roll craze of previous decades, of jazz before, swing, and classical. It is not ‘worse’. It is better made and more perfect than ever. It is rather the fact that hip-hop, once a maligned little-known sector of the music world, has become the center of culture, and in a very particular form – trap music, R&B influenced dark, melodic, atmospheric, slow, depressing, nihilistic music. The music of today is not bubbly pop songs nor anything uplifting, like the Clintonite anthem ‘fight song’. Drake himself embodies the spirit of the age. He is slow, depressed, atmospheric, undefined, raw, empty. He is the spokesman of the culture – nihilistic, self-absorbed, moody, incapable of action. But much of this can also be traced to Kanye West, and his 808s and Heartbreak, which could be the title of all popular music. Most pop songs, and the dreaded Halsey, another replaceable artist, also embody the spirit of trap. It is down-tempo, brooding, yearning. Artists represent a pre-existing sound – no artist brings anything irreplaceable to the table. Kendrick Lamar, the only mass culture artist who is constantly viewed as unimpeachable, has receded into the past, of funk and jazz, for inspiration. Donald Glover’s album Awaken, My Love! has also sought the past. Atlanta’s Migos retain energy, but still portray an ultimately nihilistic world. Run the Jewels, one of my favorite hip-hop duos, spit sound and fury that is swallowed in the mediocrity of day-to-day dealings, unable to spark off any new kind of consciousness. It only affirms rebellious progressives who already agree with the duo’s ideas. That’s probably always been the case with political punk music, and will be the case with every political anti-Trump pro-Democrat corporate diversity song soon to emerge, returning once more to the ethos of Cory Booker and Katy Perry. The chorus of pundits demanding Taylor Swift to endorse the Women’s March, or squealing at Beyoncé’s twins as the saviors of humankind before they are even born into their trust funds, affirm how little agency we truly have.
Politics, too, is all about celebrity. Countless journalists worship the Obamas with repulsive zeal, ironically conceiving of Obama as their dad, or Michelle as a queen. The iconography usurps the reality that Barack Obama normalized the post-9/11 militarized police, surveillance state, and dirty wars carried out via drone and executive sleight of the fist. The Presidency was imbued with massive powers for Donald Trump to make use of. And he is extreme, while Obama was tepid, and sought to approach the center. But still, it is easier on the brand-seeking mind to conceive of Obama’s America as Light and Trump’s America as Dark. This ahistorical infantile worldview will only lead to the totalitarianism I have previously described. Celebrity, pop culture, brand and money will all become so synonymous with politics that they cannot be teased apart. They are One. Hence, we follow up the GQ President with the Trump brand. Brands are elected, not people. The most honest root of Trump’s victory is simply an admiration for energy and bravado. That is it. It’s the same emotion as watching Mark Cuban speak authoritatively on a subject. The viewer sees his energy, his confidence, his success, and wants to join in. That’s all Trump is. It’s Tony Soprano sitting at the table. You want to sit down with him and shoot the shit. Have a beer with Bush, cheer on Trump, the ‘dad of the country’. We want a brand to supersede our own individuality every time. The messiness of individuals is not attractive. We prefer the packaged confidence of our ‘better angels’, who are actually our disguised demons. Emotion and technology will inherently produce totalitarianism moving forward.
Finally, I would like to emphasize that Trump is not Hitler. It is funny that mass culture openly considered the autocrat to be a fascist, a Nazi, a white supremacist. 1984, rather than forgotten, is one of the best-selling books on Amazon. How does one fight an abysmal regime when it is already considered a Nazi by half the country? In fact it only clouds and renders more powerless the ‘resistance’, because dissent is co-opted by corporate culture and rendered impotent. Trumpism will be replaced by simple corporate diversity, automation, and technological omnipresence. Coca-Cola will #resist by taking a stand for immigration. If Trump is actually a Nazi, then surely violent revolution is a necessity. But those who advocate for it look absurd. Those edgy Twitter Marxists calling for the punching of Nazis are actually limp-wristed clowns who invite the poison of violence assuming they can actually win once they’ve entered into a blood war with the police state. They and their ideology would be obliterated in any open confrontation with gun-owning Republicans, least of all the hammer of the corporate state. They are living in a fantasy world, transmuting their powerlessness into the cry of “Rise, comrade!”, emphasized in the loathsome chant: “NO TRUMP! NO KKK! NO FASCIST USA!”
Let’s talk about slogans for just a moment. “Make America Great Again” and “Drain the Swamp” were the most brilliant phrases of 2016. They worked more effectively than anything the left could cobble together. “Stronger Together” and “Love Trumps Hate” are just cheap throwaways that could be produced by any mass marketing campaign on social media. They mean nothing. So what are we to think, now, of the phrase: “NO TRUMP! NO KKK! NO FASCIST USA!”?
Celebrities and media companies openly think the US government is run by white supremacists. Orwell is selling off the digital shelves. Allusions to the Holocaust are everywhere. Trump is ‘literally Hitler’ to great chunks of the country, including the celebrity and journalistic worlds. What does this mean? When the fascists of the future are openly called fascists, what follows next?
Powerlessness. That is obviously what follows next. Because the only moral response to Hitler is violent force, and violent force will obviously fail against the American domestic army, and any successful revolution would tear itself apart in the aftermath, incapable of creating a new 1776, the activists of today are left utterly empty-handed. Donate to the ACLU, call your senator, vote in the smallest of elections, and keep driving your car and ordering from Amazon.com. That is the recourse. Rally and march to show opposition to Trump, and vote again for the rotten Democratic center in 2018 and 2020. Shift between center-right and extreme right forever. The Tea Party was able to attain major corporate donor support and render the US government almost entirely right-wing. The left, meanwhile, gives its money to charities, corporate Democrats, and advocacy organizations. We cannot punch through the tangled root of our problems. That intersectional molten core, socialist paradise, is for now a dream.
Alex Jones, on the other hand, has a brilliant science fiction novel inside him. In his worldview, the global elite, the technocrats in Bilderberg and Brussels, believe they have been given occult prophecy and will eventually merge with machines, attaining digitized consciousness and transcending humanity, creating off-world colonies while the global poor rot and die on the plundered mass-sewer of a destroyed Earth. On orders from Satan, they run pedophilia rings and pursue transhumanism while the rest of us live in eternal distraction and political impotence.
Many cults and many fragmented pieces of the world will rise and cement their bubbles in the coming years. They will turn inward and reject reason, living in their own emotionally self-fulfilled prophecies because they are exciting narratives that give their lives purpose. Will you or I succumb? In the minds of some others, we are already cultists. We could call it post-truth, but that’s cheap. It’s absolute relativism. The only absolutism is the fragmentation of Truth into thousands of pockets. This is only the beginning. There is no going backward.