It was June of 2009 when I first realized that Obama was to be our Gorbachev. June 2010 when I first wrote about it.
We are now living through what that means.
What happens when the apparatchiks themselves no longer believe their own propaganda?
If a people are lucky, and Russia was, to some extent, after centuries of dire bad luck, lucky with her Gorbachev; everyone ends up just walking away. The system collapses because no one believes in it any more. And, living the lies it forces on us become just too demanding, too costly to bear.
That is, at least in a society that has more than a superficial contact with sincerity, with values beyond just getting by. At least, even if, those values are only a prop for some delusional ideal.
It’s not clear how that will play here. We have a long history of taking idealists for suckers. Not because of any underlying integrity, but because the whole edifice was premised on the Pursuit of Happiness.
What Gorbachev proved to the Soviets was that no matter how “human a face” you put on that system it was corrupt to its core. It could only be destructive. So long as they had hard-core communists in power, Brezhnev, or even the insane little man Andropov, there was a resistance. Even if those inside held loosely to their fantasies of a utopia of the proletariat, they were invigorated in their reactionary support by those who opposed them.
Then a point came when no one believed in it at all. Not to support it. Not to rebel. Its hollow, empty, deadly shell came into full view as the projections surrounding it lost their force.
This is how politics changes. Not through movements, not through an “alternative platform finding a constituency.”
Those are forces that keep change at bay. They cannot create anything. They are about generating “consensus,” that agreement to be delusional all in the same way together.
These consensual delusions stagger across the world stage, wreaking havoc until finally one day, no one believes in them any more.
There is a moment of vacuum. Throughout what we know of history – Who knows what it was like before that? – we have skipped a beat while this moment spun before us. A yawning potential is quickly, has always, often, mostly, closed off with the assertion of some new, or rather old and refashioned, system of mutual delusion. The manufacture of consent progresses – something has to show signs of progress after all! – and we are back up and running. Running away from what is as fast as our fantasies can take us.
Turkey is right now the scene of our latest proxy war. Unlike previous proxy wars, from Africa, South East Asia, the Middle East; this one is uncomfortably close to home. It is a bit like the Hungarian Spring. A bit like what that must have felt like viewed from the Kremlin….
While this is purportedly another strange and foreign “other,” the edge of the old middle east, this battle is between a young and quite modern middle class, and many others of all ages and walks of life. – Most notably not a “mob of militant Islamists!” – The way the Arab Spring was so very easily characterized. However inaccurate that was even then.
This clash is between “tree-lovers” and Neo-Liberal Mall-Builders.
The “protestors” like reruns of Chicago ’68. The kind of thing we see on MadMen today. The forces of order, a thoroughly modern “police.” That is, they are a paramilitary force equipped with all that the western security state has on offer. They are running amok against their own people. Those willing yet to turn in their chance for a life for the opportunity to carry weapons and trade in their individuality for a number emblazoned on the back of a crash-helmet, so they can be sheltered and fed while others fare not so well.
But, it’s one thing to sign up for a nice gig. Another to repeatedly be sent out to bludgeon one’s own people. Neighbors, relations, grandmothers, little children. Not some “foreign, sub-human race.” Their own people.
In the end that’s what did in the Stazi. When even the promise of a comfortable cushion is no longer enough to justify the naked and brutal aggression. “For what purpose?” They began to ask. And no one had an answer.
The ones who worked hard to provide those answers, the political class, no longer had a scrap of belief in the story they were spinning. And, cynicism is self-limiting. All its paths to slow suicide finally take their toll. The ones that are left finally find it easier to just walk away.
The key to all this is the depth of disillusionment provided. The last “hope” must fail. Not be foiled. Not be defeated. He, and it’s always been one of those, has to “try really hard.” Be “really smart.” Have all the power to do what they “think is right.” And then fail, spectacularly and without equivocation.
What happens next is unknown. Most likely there will be many last-ditch efforts. There are lots of weapons yet to be used. The nightmares of reason continually providing rationales – that’s what reason is for ultimately, after all…. But at some point, enough people will embrace disillusionment, or have it thrust on them by events, that the shell reveals its hollow center and collapses.
So many are quick to reject how important internal attitudes and perspectives, our ways of seeing the world, are. When compared to geopolitical “facts on the ground.”
Here is an answer. Look at the Berlin Wall. Look at Roman ruins, like Conimbriga, at any ruins of any past age. Eventually the delusions stopped paying-off. The survivors walked away. At that point they stopped “fighting.” They also stopped being defeated.
There is an opportunity here. Not a chance to reach for another utopia, although that will be sold by many looking for another bubble to cash in on. At some point a moment of vacuum will, might, could possibly arrive. When it does some might just decide to stay there. That is, stay within the moment and not run madly after some new half-baked delusion.
We don’t know what this will bring either. That’s the point. The only certainties are at the end of the barrel of a gun, or a pipe-line, or shimmering at the bottom of a radioactive pool of nuclear waste; the certainties of death. Death wholesale, mega-death, extinction on demand.
Life, on the other hand is characterized by its unpredictability. Learning to recognize that, and arrive at the joy this unfolds, is the entire point of disillusionment.