As a young idealist, one is often prone to anger, frustration, and even melancholy towards the corruption and ills of society as well as the imperfections of the world. Young idealists want clear and effective remedies to societal ills such as human suffering, inequality, and so forth. But with time, one arrives at the realization that community and society – and especially the international community and international society – make up one big marketplace whereby individuals and groups are merely vying for material gain and “power.” Thus, with time, realism shapes one’s dispositions, in the sense that objectives and interests are the name of the game in both local society and international society.
For instance, the reason why a certain number of Arab states are either passive or soft when it comes to the issue of Palestine is because of business with the United States. In turn, the United States is passive and soft on the Palestine issue because of the nature of share-holding in the Federal Reserve. It is believed that if Israel and Saudi Arabia were to withdraw their shares from America’s Federal Reserve, almost 20 percent of American banks – if not more – would collapse in an instant.
But with more affluence and wealth concentrated in a small circle of individuals comes more societal problems. As Edward Luce wrote: “The West is suffering from acute polarization. History tells us that inequality soars when societies develop.” Luce also noted that in the year 2000, about a third of Americans described themselves as lower class. But by 2015, about half of Americans described themselves as lower class. Thus, as Luce suggested: “The West’s drift to pessimism has been most radical in the land of optimism.” And as James Baldwin wrote:
“In America, though, life seems to move faster than anywhere else on the globe and each generation is promised more than it will get: which creates, in each generation, a furious bewildered rage, the rage of people who cannot find solid ground beneath their feet.”
In turn, polarization is stiffened by the elites through imposing barriers to social mobility, such as raising the cost of education and so forth. Education is the primary vehicle for social mobility, and by increasing the barriers to education, the elites are essentially stiffening the barriers to social mobility. Andrew Carnegie, who himself came from very humble beginnings to become the second-wealthiest man in America after John Rockefeller, said: “Do not pauperize the poor man further; give him a library.”
Luce also quoted Aristotle in highlighting the reality that the elites stiffen the barriers to social mobility more than anyone else through their passions and appetites: “No tyrant ever conquered a city because he was poor and hungry.” Thus, the growth in class disparities stemming from the stiffening of barriers to social mobility on the part of the elites culminated into a singular ploy by cunning politicians such as Donald Trump. As Andrew Bacevich wrote:
“Trump was transforming the election into a referendum centered on a single question: Are you satisfied with the direction in which the country is headed? Answer yes or no. The number of pissed-off Americans responding to that question in the negative, their ranks effectively reinforced by the millions who did not vote at all, sufficed to install Trump in the White House. We may lament that outcome. Yet it is important to acknowledge that developments during the preceding quarter century had provided his supporters with ample motivation to vote as they did.”
Those “developments” preceding Trump which Bacevich referred to were in essence America’s entry into never-ending wars aimed at garnering empire and exercising hegemony over others. As Bacevich wrote: “In an earlier age, American saw empire as the antithesis of freedom. Today, as illustrated above all by the Bush administration…empire has seemingly become a prerequisite for freedom.” And in the end, empire and hegemony on one hand and freedom and liberty on the other hand are mutually exclusive conditions. As Bacevich wrote:
“Here is the central paradox of our time: While the defense of American freedom seems to demand that U.S. troops fight in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, the exercise of that freedom at home undermines the nation’s capacity to fight. A grand bazaar provides an inadequate basis upon which to erect a vast empire.”
Thus, America is currently in a “Catch-22” situation, in the sense that course correction in Washington can thwart despotism and tyranny at home on one hand, and a failure to correct the course can lead to the traumas that were experienced in Washington during Trump’s presidency.