Tag Archives: Commentary

Desperate Times

[thoughts from ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara]

It is said that desperate times call for desperate measures. Undoubtedly another of those truisms bandied about but not really well understood. That’s not exactly a surprise, that, is it.

The problem for mankind caught in the clash of civilizations, such as, for example, the onslaught of the European empires upon Africa, the Americas and the Far East, and even for many European nations, is the inability to recognize the coming of desperate times thus remaining wide open to any better armed or more hypocritical predator. By the time the people realize they’ve been conquered, it’s too late for any “desperate measures” short of committing tribal suicide in bloody battles that have no hope of succeeding.

But desperate times do not come only in times of war. They can arise in times of economic oppression conveniently labelled “depression” as if it was somehow a natural event. If the oppressor is able to hide his intent by fomenting hate, fear or greed (the basic formula for any conquest), those being economically conquered will be so busy hating, fearing and exploiting one another they will only realize their real plight when it’s too late to do anything about it; when “desperate measures” will no longer work because they can no longer be enacted.

It is my contention that both, the USA (and satellite or militarily dependent nations) and the European Union have now reached this “desperate times” condition. Predatory capitalism has firmly established itself over these lands and their benighted occupants. These occupants are now boxed in; incapable of coming up with any viable way out of their occupancy. In a very real, para-military way, all those nations reeling under unimaginable debt loads and sucking off the hind tit of international banksters are in fact occupied nations.

They are more firmly controlled and being systematically plundered than were conquered nations under the Third Reich. Banksterism is far more deadly than Nazism yet very few actually recognize this danger. That’s why the growing hype about resurgent Nazism: keep the hate and fear going, hide the plundering.

Banksterism is the traditional snake that ensnares with its eyes before it strikes. The victim is incapable of movement, unable to realize the death blow is coming. “You know this is being done for your own good now,” say the snake eyes. The victim remains hopeful until after the death strike.

It’s not that there was no warning. The “Desperate Times Ahead, Use Extreme Caution” signs have been posted planet-wide for generations, if not ages. It’s not as if there never were mass victims of desperate times which should be a warning for those heedlessly plunging ahead thinking only of the next pay check, the next purchase, the next “fuck” if you will.

The problem is, who is it that’s going to get royally “fucked” this time around? Will it be the “dirty Indians” or the “soul-less blacks of darkest Africa”? Will it be the “godless Arabs” sitting on veritable gold mines of black gold? Will it be the last tribes of the Amazon or the Malayan jungles?

Well no. Civilization has run out of those. Massacred, enslaved, bought out into hopeless poverty and refugee status, they no longer matter. They can no longer feed the banksters of predatory capitalism. Since the System can only feed itself on living flesh that produces, reproduces and reduces, the new victims are Americans and Europeans, and following that, those of China and India. All those who now depend entirely on the World Bank; the IMF; the Fed, (or any other similar agency, regardless of the name it uses) for everything, even in increasing instances for the very air they breathe.

Few ever saw the warning signs of long ago (it’s called history, for those who think studying history is so very boring), fewer yet can sense the perilous condition they’ve willingly let themselves be ensnared into. There are no desperate measures being talked about or even considered, just same old, same old, (replace the Conservatives with the Liberals, the Republicans with the Democrats, the “This” with the “That.” Add a touch of icing on the cake, like alternative energy sources and such, pathetic and pitiful handouts to the clamouring who suspect something’s about to seriously go south… to shut them up, to keep them believing and voting and consuming, even when they know they are believing in a pathocratic deity, voting for a deadly enemy and consuming each other.

Sure, fine, have your “climate change” meetings. Have your Tesla technology and pretty (or ugly) electric cars. Have your windmills of your mind. Feel better? That’s what was intended, that you feel something is being done, by somebody, about something important so you’ll remain compliant. Suck on that nipple. We don’t mind you fussing when less and less milk squirts from it, just suck harder.  It’s that trickle down thing.  It works for us, make it work for you.  Read those self help books we keep grinding out to keep you believing.  Pray to the Universe: it’s just one great big wish granting machine  eager to satisfy your every whim.  Buy the book.  If it works (guffaw!), it’s just more taxes in our pockets.)

 

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You can’t stop them from seeing (your broken life)

(Lyrics from the song, Hallelujah, by Leonard Cohen)

  [poem from   ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara]

City streets can be colder than stone
when you’re vulnerable and all alone
nor ever paved with the rich man’s gold
in threadbare clothes, wet and cold.

She comes to a familiar doorway
in the night when she’s lost her way
remembers the days of her short life
how desperately she’d run from strife
finding a hallway, a basement stair
then running again from every nightmare.

The deskman knows.  She tosses her hood
and puts her hand on the worn wood.
Her words, like a voice from the tomb:
“Please, I need a cheap room.”

He smiles at her – or is it a leer?
He replies, she can smell the stale beer —
“Forty dollars for a night at the inn –
or free, and I’ll tuck you in.”
His hand slips over her cold wrist:
for the mill she will ever be grist.

Through the window, two sheets, a case:
she grabs but he says, “No need for haste.”
Here’s the key – it’s three – o – four –
and don’t forget: don’t lock the door.”

He watches her walk to the rickety stairs,
shoulders slumped, broken by despair
and as she steps on the very first rung
comes a line from a song she’d once sung:

“Baby I’ve been here before
I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked the floor
used to live alone before I knew ya
But I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Our love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah”

So, I’ve been Thinking


[thoughts from   ~burning woman~    by Sha’Tara]

What was I thinking about?  First, the joke (it’s on Youtube if you want the “live” version).  An English fishing vessel is caught in a violent Channel storm.  The captain sends out an SOS:  Mayday, mayday, we’re sinking, we’re sinking!  He gets this very hesitant response:  “Zis is ze cherman coast gardt… vat are you sinkink about?”

Well, maybe I’m  thinking about sinking, or at least about that sinking feeling.  Are we sinking, I mean, as a society, and as a global civilization?  Is it game over for us?  Some will say we are, some will have noticed nothing unusual and some will admit to a rough patch and some hiccuping, and that leaves me exactly where I should be: to decide for myself what the “state of this world” is.

It’s bad, OK?  No point denying the obvious, it is a seriously bad patch we’re going through.

Are we sinking, going to the bottom, then?  I’d vote no.  I cannot imagine, or image, an end to mankind – not in the cards, you might say.  The casino will come crashing down and many a gambler will be crushed, or lose everything, but there are those left who didn’t play the game and never entered the casino.  Few they may be, but they still exist, however much the pimps and slavers of the Matrix, Status quo or “the System” have scoured the earth to round these few up.  Further to this, there are the gamblers who looked up in time and saw the cracks.  They collected their earnings, swallowed their losses, cashed in their chips and got the hell out of Dodge.

The thing is, it’s hard to separate a terrible die-back and the collapse of civilization from a total apocalypse.  To imagine, say, the extinction of some five and a half billion people over a period of a couple of hundred years.  Horrible?  Disastrous?  Scary?  Indeed, and certainly enough to believe it isn’t going to stop until all are dead and the earth lies a desert waste, it’s waters a dead stinking miasma of spreading diseases.  Those who remain alive will feel the strangling effect of the “great terror” and live in dread.  Some will invoke God and some will imagine alien rescues and some will just go through the motions of staying alive and if they still can bear children and have them will try to keep them alive, no matter what shape they are in.

That’s the nature of Earthian people.  Those who survive are the survivors and what they will then have programmed into their immune system, and what will be on their mind, that will be what they will rebuild with.  They will be your progeny.  When it thinks about you it will always be as a curse.  In their minds they will cast this generation to the deepest pits of the deepest hell.

There are many ways to look at man’s future: endless possibilities, endless directions it can go.  I like to work on the logic of it.  I look at population charts and the effects such populations have on the natural environment.  I look at the accelerating demise of non-human species, whether avian, mammalian, insect, aquatic, flora, and for each extinct species I deduct from human recovery.  I look at the spread of technology world-wide and attendant eco-damage, including climate change.  I don’t engage the smaller effects of, say, Tesla technology and “organic” or “vertical” farming.  I try to stay with the bigger picture.  I don’t see these “changes” having much of any effect in a timely manner to prevent a major catastrophe.  The main problem with “positive” technology is it puts people to sleep; makes them believe they can continue to increase population and consumption with decreasing environmental consequences.  Deadly assumption in a finite environment.

I also look at greater social developments such as resource wars leading to destabilization of ethnic communities and destruction of older ways of life.  I look at the destruction of cities and histories: the “dummying down process” and of course, the increase in dispossession and in refugees.  Then I look at how wars, civil wars, revolutions and genocides are funded, by whom, and why.  I watch the blood flow and those who once had hands covered in the blood of innocents now have their entire bodies awash in the stuff.  Then I listen to comments by those who remain essentially affluent and recipients of those “good things” which their leaders and rulers extort from dispossession, slave labour, oppression and bloodshed.

The comments, for the most part, aren’t in the least understanding, or compassionate.  There is little enough effort expended in reaching deep into the pain and suffering one lifestyle inflicts on another – and how could there be?  Earth people know little or nothing of compassionate interaction since such would require living in the nightmare of empathy.  If you are one of those rare ones living in it, you know what I mean by nightmare.  If you are not, you can’t understand what I mean, even if you try.

As a people, as a species, Earthians will not choose to become compassionate beings.  To do so would mean changing everything they believe about themselves, their species, and its interaction with the rest of their world.  I said everything, and I mean everything.  Nothing of the old would remain.  That will not happen, not on any scale needed to prevent catastrophe.

So we’ve finally reached our physical and mental evolutionary crossroads.  Yet a vast majority refuses to recognize the landmarks; others will believe they’ve never been here before and no one can know what it means.  Of course.  If there is one thing Earthians can be known for it’s their amazing ability to live in denial and defend the indefensible.

What we should be asking:  what did we use to get here?  Was it virtue, or vice?  The truth now.  What was the number one motivator of civilization that has brought it to this crossroad from which there is no turning back and from which any choice (but one unthinkable) can only lead to disaster?

Be certain that whatever “force” we used to get here will be the very same “force” we will rely on to push us down the path of our next choice.  This means we will use more of same and experience more of same though knowing it is unsustainable.  Any choice we make won’t really be a choice but a continuation of our tried and failed methods of propulsion into the future.  It’s what we are and we will continue to do what we have always done, with little sparks of resistance here and there, and some lofty rhetoric over the Internet to blind us to the real facts.

We will hear of organic, sustainable cooperative communities… and there will be some, of course.   We will hear of rich people donating food and housing to certain groups of victims of climate change and we will say, wow, they can do it, and not ask how these people got rich in the first place – because that would spoil the “feel good” moment.  More and more people will turn vegan, and even if we still insist on eating meat or using animal products, we will still take some credit and feel good about this “movement” and absolve ourselves because our doctor said our body needs the meat.  Not our fault, you see.  Plus, we recycle, we do our bit.  What the hell, “Not Our Fault” for any of the negative stuff.  Plenty of others to blame for the really bad stuff.

The “Not Our Fault” slogan will continue to rule, past the crossroads, past the turning point.  We will ride that toboggan to the bottom of the hill and then discover that those who maintained that once we got to the bottom there’d be no way back up were right.  There is no way back up.  What we left up there is forever gone and now we must walk away with whatever we have… into the future, into whatever it has left to offer.  For most, for billions, that will be death: by disease; by famine; by war; by genocide; by drowning and by burning.

As we lay dying, we’ll remember our stand-by mantra: it wasn’t our fault.  It wasn’t me.  It was them.  They did it.  Indeed, why should one individual take responsibility for what the collective did?  Yes, but isn’t a collective made up of individuals?  And am I one of such individuals?  If I am, how can I not be equally responsible?  How can I blame “others” and absolve myself?

The Collapse of Empire, or Something more?

 

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~  ]

Are we really seeing the collapse and downfall of more than just a historically minor event such as the now inescapable fading of the American military/industrial empire?  Are we not in fact entering into the final “hurrah!” of man’s entire global civilization with no possibility of turning back?

Though a majority of people are beginning to feel the slippery slope dragging them and their certainty down, it’s still very much business as usual and if some things appear, well, seriously skewed, there’s got to be something to blame it on which “they” will, of course, correct in due time.  And, we have all the time in the world after all.

It’s been man’s way since… when, exactly?  No one knows, but since history was recorded, man’s way of dealing with massive change and catastrophe has been to throw a lot of money (or equivalent) measured in blood, sweat and tears, at it until “it” was tamed and reconfigured. 

But never fixed: that is something that man considers below his dignity to address.  Fixing would mean serious change and that’s just too deep, too heavy, too complicated, too… utopian.  Utopias are for dreamers in Never-never Land, and for conspiracy theorists. 

What would it entail, to fix our dying civilization (as opposed to screaming, bombing, consuming and poisoning it to death)?  Imagine wholeheartedly coming to terms with our differences, such as race, colour, gender, sex, social status, and choosing peaceful and bloodless co-existence on a planetary scale.  Not just between Earthians, but between all the creatures that make up our biosphere and living/livable space? 

The response to that question: Hell no… we don’t fix nothin’ heah.  If it don’t do what we want it to do, we jes’ beat the tar out of it until it does and if it don’t, we shoot it and bust it up good.  Then we celebrate the dust up if we win, and vow revenge if we lose.  The game goes ever on.

Man’s idea of solving problems is strictly out of a Warner Brothers cartoon world.  In man’s world you can kill at will knowing more always appears to make new targets.  You can destroy all you want, it all grows back.  Whatever it is you destroy you “know” that it will be back tomorrow so you can destroy it some more, and not only have fun doing it, but profit from the destruction.  Somehow, no matter how much abuse we give it, this world is a magical cornucopia that takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin.’  Why worry? 

Without realizing the total unreliability of his eye-blink historical record, man relies on it to make the critical decision not to care about how the world is reacting to unrelenting and increasing abuse.  After all, says history, there’s never been an end before, just some tough patches some had to go through.  We went down and came back up swinging against, well, just about everything but particularly against nature, for nature has always been, and remains, man’s number one enemy, the one to be subdued through overt pillage and rape. 

It’s all a question of guts and glory.  The planet needs taming and conquering and it’s so big that nothing man does can have any significance when it comes to destruction. 

Right?  OK, so maybe it doesn’t seem right, but it certainly is done that way as observation notes. 

So?  So, here’s something to ponder.  History does say man always came back.  But two things come into this static picture of the past.  One, and obviously, there never was the population density (that we can know of) we are now experiencing, with no place left to go when the life boat seriously begins to take in water, except into the water to drown.  Two, we never had the technology (that we know of) we now have that empowers us to literally destroy most of life on this world. 

Two current problems history has no hindsight on, so cannot help us resolve.  We’re on our own – how about that!  So, what’s local “man” doing about it?  Well, in the midst of what is probably the most serious heat wave ever experienced in this neck of the woods, the local water-slides are doing a booming business.  That’s just one thing I’ve observed.  Certainly not unexpected, but what does that say about the general mindset? 

The First Law of The First World: “Thou shalt not mess with my comfort, my pleasure and my financial profit.”  

Thus we ensure that what we are experiencing is not just the downfall of a particularly deranged capitalistic empire, but the imploding of man’s entire global civilization… with no hope whatever of turning it around.  All I see for “healing” are band aid solutions applied to a global hemorrhage, simply because a real fix would mean loss of, you guessed it, comfort, pleasure and profit and that is unacceptable to the planetary mindset.

Let’s Turn it Around

Sort of a reblog.  Artist illustration demonstrating how backward and ignorant this society really is.

 

Personally I titled this one “Capitalism Feeds Consumerism… and vice-versa”

There’s more at  http://awarenessact.com/theses-disturbing-art-illustrations-show-just-how-backwards-our-society-really-is/

Enjoy the artist’s alternate viewpoint, well worth the time.

Some Thoughts Today

I changed my header image today, replacing the colourful Steller’s jay I had taken a picture of in the back yard with a picture of a Merlin, or Pigeon Hawk (small northern falcon) taken on top of a housing complex in Wood Buffalo, Fort McMurray, Alberta, on the day I was leaving there.

There’s a story behind this.  Some months ago I had decided to join up with a construction/re-building volunteer organization to go up to Fort McMurray and help re-build some of the 2400 homes that were destroyed by last year’s wildfires.  Some 1500 other constructions were also either totally destroyed or badly damaged by the rampaging fires (2016 Fort McMurray Wildfire – Wikipedia)  of last May.

So, my partner, Vic Janzen and I drove my van the 1500 km to Fort McMurray from Chilliwack, B.C., doing the drive in two days – easy stretches – had the power steering pump not sheared its shaft 300 km south of our destination.  So the rest done with armstrong steering and since the pump also runs the power breaks, some interesting moments practically standing on the pedal to bring the vehicle to a standstill.  It’s doable, and we did it without incidents.

This was meant to be a somewhat long term involvement but we literally ran out of work after two weeks of steady labour and long hours.  We got three basements formed, cement poured and basically ready to receive the “ready to move” pre-built homes that are being trucked in from southern Saskatchewan where another group of volunteers built them with help and donation of materials from a local firm.

I met one of the people whose house our group is replacing.  Lots of teary emotions as these are proud people who never thought they’d be in such a situation, having to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of “charity” from complete strangers. I was reminded again of how little we can rely on what we believe to be certain.  Even with all our fancy technology, our way of life can be taken from us literally in hours; all that we’ve worked a lifetime for gone, just like that.  All is ephemeral.

So, we came back, without incidents this time except for the “check engine” light and “check oil” light constantly popping on and off.  This has yet to be analyzed and corrected… will it be another $1000 repair job… or worse?  I suspect a leaking head gasket, but what do I know about modern vehicles and their convoluted engines, except to drive them?

Would I do that again?  Sure, only I hope it’s closer to “home” next time!  I hear there’s been flooding in the Okanagan valley in central B.C.  That would be only 600 km from here.  Would I go back to Fort McMurray?  Only if there was better organization and my time was better allocated, as in productive long term work.

Anyway, the other side of … ~burning woman~ … eager to make this planet a better world for all.  We do what we can, eh?  🙂

 

Little Big Man – Into the Whirlwind – By Tom Engelhardt (a reblog)

I know, most are really getting tired of hearing about “The Donald” and US political troubles, or squabbles, but nobody writes up a good exposé as does Tom Englehart.  So, if you have a few minutes to spare, have a look.  (Sha’Tara)

Message (Re-Blog)

 Little Big Man 

Into the Whirlwind 
By Tom Engelhardt

He’s huge. Outsized. He fills the news hole at any moment of any day. His over-tanned face glows unceasingly in living rooms across America. Never has a president been quite so big. So absolutely monstrous. Or quite so small.

He’s our Little Big Man.

I know, I know… he induces panic, fear, anxiety, insomnia.  Shrinks in liberal America will tell you that, since November 2016, their patients are more heavily medicated and in worse shape.  He’s a nightmare, a unique monster.  It’s been almost two years since he first entered the presidential race and in all that time I doubt there’s been a moment when the cameras haven’t been trained on him, when he wasn’t “breaking news.”  (By May 2016, he had already reportedly received the equivalent in “earned media” of nearly $3 billion in free advertising.)  He and his endless controversial statements, flubs, tweets, lies, insults, boasts, tales from outer space, and over-the-moon adjectives are covered daily the way, once upon a time, only Pearl Harbor or the Kennedy assassination was.

Think of him as the end of the world as we, or maybe anyone, including Vladimir Putin, knew it.  To me, that means one thing, even though most of you won’t agree: I think we owe Donald Trump a small bow of thanks and a genuine debt of gratitude.  He’s teaching us something invaluable, something we probably wouldn’t have grasped without him.  He’s teaching us just how deeply disturbed our American world actually is, or he wouldn’t be where he is.

A Quagmire Country

Think of him as a messenger from the gods, the deities of empire gone astray.  They sent us a man without a center, undoubtedly because 17 years into the twenty-first century our country lacks a center, and a man without a fixed opinion or a single conviction, except about himself and his family, because this country is now a swirling mess of contradictory beliefs and groups at each other’s throats.  They sent us our first billionaire president who left countless people holding the bag in his various, often failed, business dealings.  He brings to mind that classic phrase “those that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind” just as we’re now reaping the results of the 1% politics that gained such traction in recent years; and of a kind of war-making, American style, that initially seemed aimed at global supremacy, but now seems to have no conceivable goal.  We’re evidently destined to go on killing ever more people, producing ever more refugees, cracking open ever more nations, and spreading ever more terror movements until the end of time.  They sent a man ready to build a vanity wall on the Mexican border and pour more money into the U.S. military at a time when it’s becoming harder for Americans to imagine investing in anything but an ever-more powerful national security state, even as the country’s infrastructure begins to crumble.  They sent a billionaire who once deep-sixed a startling number of his businesses to save a country that couldn’t be more powerful and yet has proven incapable of building a single mile of high-speed rail.

Into this quagmire, the gods dispatched the man who loves MOAB, who drools over “my generals,” who wants to build a “big, fat, beautiful wall” on our southern border, but was beyond clueless about where power actually lay in Washington.

He’s a man with a history but without a sense of history, a man for whom anything is imaginable and everything is mutable, including the past.  In this, too, he’s symptomatic of the nation he now “leads.”  Who among us even remembers the set of Washington officials who, only a decade and a half ago, had such glorious dreams about establishing a global Pax Americana and who led us so unerringly into an unending hell in the Greater Middle East?  Who remembers that those officials of the George W. Bush administration had another dream as well — of a Pax Republicana, a one-party imperial state that would stretch across the American South deep into the Midwest, Southwest, and parts of the West, kneecapping the Democratic Party for an eternity and leaving that artifact of a two-party past confined to the country’s coastal areas.  Their dream — and it couldn’t have been more immodest — was to rule the world and its great remaining superpower for… well… more or less ever.

They were to dominate America and America was to dominate everything else in a way no country in history — not the Romans, not the British — had ever done.  As they saw it, in the wake of the implosion of the Soviet Union, there would be no other superpower, nor even a bloc of great powers, capable of obstructing America’s destined future.  They and their successors would see to that.

The United States would be the land of wealth and power in a previously unimaginable fashion.  It would be the land that made everything that went bang in the night — and in that (and perhaps that alone) their dreams would be fulfilled.  To this day, Hollywood and its action films dominate planetary screens, while American arms merchants have a near monopoly on selling the world their dangerous toys.  As our new president recently put it, their energies and those of the U.S. government should remain focused on getting countries across the globe to engage in “the purchase of lots of beautiful military equipment.” Indeed.

As for the rest of their dream of geopolitical dominance, it began to come a cropper remarkably quickly.  As it turned out, the military that American presidents regularly hailed in these years as the “greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known” or “the finest fighting force in the history of the world” couldn’t even win wars against lightly armed insurgents or deal with enemies employing roadside bombs that could be built off the Internet for the price of a pizza.  The U.S. military (and its allied warrior corporations) turned out not to be a force for eternal order and triumph but, at least across the Greater Middle East and Africa, for eternal chaos and the spread of terror movements.  They were the whirlwind, which meant that neither that “pax” nor that “Americana” would come to pass.

While Rome Burned…

Meanwhile, back at home, a gerrymandered, near-one-party state did indeed come into existence as the Republicans swept most governorships, gained control of a significant majority of state legislatures, nailed down the House and the Senate, and finally, when Little Big Man entered the Oval Office, took it all.  It was a feat for the history books — or so it briefly seemed.  Instead, the result has been chaos, thanks in part to a Republican Party that is actually three or four parties and a president barely associated with it, as a war of all against all broke out.  None of this should have been surprising, given a congressional party that had honed its skills not on ruling but on blocking rule.  In the last months, it has largely proved incapable even of ruling itself, no less the wild man and his unpredictable team of advisers in the White House.

From his “big, fat, beautiful wall” to his “big league,” “phenomenal” tax plan to his “insurance for everybody” healthcare program, the president promises to be the living proof that the long dreamed of Pax Republicana is just another form of war without end on the domestic front.

His victory was, in a sense, a revelation that both political parties had been hollowed out, as every Republican presidential candidate except him was swept unceremoniously off stage and out of contention in a hail of insults.  Meanwhile, the Democratic Party, by now a remarkably mindless (and spineless) political machine without much to underpin it, came to seem ever more like the domestic equivalent of those failed states the war on terror was creating in the Greater Middle East.  In short, American politics was visibly faltering and, in the whirlwind that deposited Little Big Man in office, a far wider range of Americans seemed in danger of going down, too, including Medicaid users, Obamacare enrollees, meals-on-wheels seniors, and food stamp recipients in what could become a slow-motion collapse of livable lives amid a proliferation of billionaires.  Think of us as a nation in the process of consuming itself, even as our president turns the White House into a private business.  If this is imperial “decline,” it’s certainly a curious version of it.

It was into the growing hell that passed for the planet’s “sole superpower” that those gods dispatched Little Big Man — not a shape-shifting creature but a man without shape and lacking all fixed ideas (except about himself).  He was perfectly capable of saying anything in any situation, and then, in altered circumstances, of saying the opposite without blinking or evidently even noticing.  His recent trip to Saudi Arabia was a classic case of just that.  Gone were the election campaign denunciations of the Saudis for their human rights record and for possibly being behind the 9/11 attacks, as well as of Islam as a religion that “hates us”; gone was his criticism of Michelle Obama for not wearing a headscarf on her visit to Riyadh (Melania and Ivanka did the same), and of Barack Obama for bowing to a Saudi king (he did, too).  Out the window went his previous insistence that any self-respecting American politician must use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” which he carefully avoided.  And none of this was different from, say, swearing on the campaign trail that he would never touch Medicaid and then, in his first budget, offering plans to slash $880 billion from that program over the next decade.

Admittedly, Donald Trump — and yes, that’s the first time I’ve used his name, but there was no need, was there? — has yet to appoint his horse (or perhaps his golf cart) as a senator or, as far as we know, commit acts of incest in the tradition of Caligula, the first mad Roman emperor.  Yet in many ways, doesn’t he feel something like an updated version of that figure or perhaps of Nero who so famously fiddled — actually, according to historian Mary Beard in her book SPQR, played the lyre — while Rome burned?

Fortunately, unlike every psychiatrist in town, I’m not bound by the “Goldwater Rule,” which prohibits a diagnosis of a public figure you haven’t personally examined. While I have no expertise in whether Donald Trump has a “narcissistic personality disorder,” I see no reason not to say the obvious: he’s a distinctly disturbed individual. That he was nonetheless elected president tells us a good deal about where we are as a country today. As Tony Schwartz, who actually wrote his bestselling book The Art of the Deal, put it recently, “Trump was equally clear with me that he didn’t value — nor even necessarily recognize — the qualities that tend to emerge as people grow more secure, such as empathy, generosity, reflectiveness, the capacity to delay gratification or, above all, a conscience, an inner sense of right and wrong.”

Now, that should be frightening. After all, given who he is, given his fear of “losing,” of rejection, of not being loved (or more accurately, adulated), of in short being obliterated, who knows what such a man might do in a crisis, including obliterating the rest of us. After all, he already lives in a world without fixed boundaries, definitions, or history, which is why nothing he says has real meaning.  And yet he couldn’t be more meaningful. He’s a message, a warning of the first order, and if that were all he were, he would just be an inadvertent teacher about the nature of our American world and we could indeed thank him and do our best to move on.

Unfortunately, there’s another factor to take into account. Humanity had, in the years before his arrival, come up with two quite different and devastating ways of doing ourselves in, one an instant Armageddon, the other a slow-motion trip to hell. Each of them threatens to cripple or destroy the very planet that has nurtured us these tens of thousands of years. It was not, of course, Donald Trump who put us in this peril. He’s just a particularly grim reminder of how dangerous our world has truly become.

After all, Little Big Man now has unparalleled access to the most “beautiful” weapons of all and he’s eager to update and expand an already vast U.S. arsenal of them. I’m talking, of course, about nuclear weapons. Any president we elect has, since the 1950s, had the power to take out the planet. Only once have we come truly close.  Nonetheless, for the control over such weaponry to be in the hands of a deeply unpredictable and visibly disturbed president is obviously a danger to us all.

It could be assumed that the gods who sent him into the Oval Office at such a moment have a perverse sense of humor. Certainly, on the second of those deadly dangers, climate change, he’s already taken action based on another of his fantasies: that making America great again means taking it back to the fossil-fueled 1950s. His ignorance about, and actions to increase the effects of, climate change have already taken the U.S., the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet, out of the climate change sweepstakes and into uncharted territory. These acts and the desire to promote fossil fuels in every way imaginable will someday undoubtedly be seen as crimes against humanity. But by then they will already have done their dirty deed.

If luck doesn’t hold, Donald Trump may end up making Caligula and Nero look like statesmen.  If luck doesn’t hold he may be the Littlest Big Man of all.

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs TomDispatch.com. His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, as well as John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2017 Tom Engelhardt

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