Making It All Personal Means Taking It All Personally
By Martin LeFevre
Mar 11, 2018, 11:02am
The clearest and most disturbing expression of the present state of the world I've read comes from Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, the outgoing United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights." This is his cri de coeur:
"Today oppression is fashionable again; the security state is back, and fundamental freedoms are in retreat in every region of the world. Shame is also in retreat. Xenophobes and racists in Europe are casting off any sense of embarrassment. Have we all gone completely mad?"
Clearly the world has gone even crazier. But it could be argued that the average person's adaptation to the present world is not madness, but a rational reaction carried to its logical and irrational end.
Most people don't care about events in the world like the suppurating boil of Syria not because they have no heart (though many have deadened themselves to that point), but because to care even a little hurts too much.
There is an existential Catch-22: We can't care if we see and take things personally, yet faced with such enormities as Syria, we feel we can only take care of ourselves personally.
It's true that "Donald Trump's America does not care about Syria, or war crimes, or human rights." But the hollowing out of America and the West did not begin with Trump; it has simply culminated in him and his ilk.
Just as George W. Bush paved the way for Obama, Obama paved the way for Trump. Barack wanted to pattern himself after Lincoln, but he presided over an America that had long ceased to care about anything except the personal realm, and he was not equipped to address it, to speak to the human heart. Don't forget, President Obama sat on his hands over Syria for years.
Caught in journalistic immediacy, Trump-obsessed commentators have forgotten how dark the Bush-Cheney years were. The Obama presidency was a wasted interregnum, in the end a placeholder for a far darker manifestation.
Elites in the media and academia say with a straight face, "For the past year, American intellectuals have largely risen to the challenge...Mr. Trump's foes are grappling with the forces behind his rise." They have barely begun to do so.
Experts who see the present through their chosen lenses of the past can't see what is happening in the world and with humankind, since their very specialization precludes them from realizing that there are times in history when the present breaks with the past.
We are in such a transition; the only question is: how deep does it go? It goes far deeper than Trump as an aberration, an anomaly, an 'imposter' who is asserting "radical American imperialism." He is the logical end of conventional and respectable American imperialism.
The "American-led liberal international order" was dead on Trump's arrival. Bush Senior was its apex; Bill Clinton it master finesser; and George Bush its true wrecking ball. Sadly, Barack Obama is already a footnote, while Donald Trump is the Il Duce clown more likely every week to plunge the world into an unimaginable war.
That which we cannot prevent we must prepare for. I don't mean personally, in some survivalist delusion, but by thinking together from the heart about what comes next.
One of the worst underlying falsehoods of the drainstream media is that ordinary people only care about what they can relate to personally. Under that lie, the mass media has become propagandists of the personal, turning collective problems and challenges into sentimental mush.
The poobahs of the academia-media complex aren't coming down from their ivory towers and high horses. They're still pushing false and absurdly unreflective notions such as, "Democracy requires experts, but recent events cast doubt on whether our current crop of experts is up to the job."
They are the "current crop of experts!" And when they spew such verbiage, which inherently does not "respect the ultimate power of the electorate to set the aims of the nation," it's no wonder the 'populist' mob finds aid and comfort in demagogic enemies of the people like Donald Trump.
The people, in America and beyond, know the old order is dead, and that evil is rearing its ugly head. We not only need new leaders, we need a redefinition of leadership, based not on the failing persuasions of the powerful, but on the insights of intelligence beyond the intellect, which is available to anyone.
Don't make it personal, or take it personally. If you put everything at the same level, then the important things fall to the bottom.
Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He welcomes dialogue. firstname.lastname@example.org
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