Trump and the Trouble with Winning

Trump has blown open a thin veil of marriage between God and the right wing, originally pierced by P.T. Anderson's There Will Be Blood in 2007. TWBB fans know that religion and capitalism are train-engines facing opposite directions and connected in the middle. Jesus was a textbook communist and compassion is the opposite of fiscal growth. But where as Charlie Sheen was once a punchline for his troglodytic, over-simplistic "duh #winning" persona, there are a core of Trump supporters that are truly terrifying for a similar competitive lust.

I'm not referring to old-fashioned value voters who use Fox News as the warm fireplace in the center of their home, 60 year old Christians who value God and hard work for hard work's sake. Those easily sold a bill of goods, who actually believe Hillary is a felon, are merely a technical problem; they're a social engineering puzzle to keep folks with only one source of news from being fooled by a con-man. The same way our parents are all being scammed by anti-virus software ads and clever algorithms sending "real" emails from their friends in an emergency who need to be wired money immediately. This was merely a knowledge gap. An embarrassing moment when a generation incidentally more informed than its parents needed to protect them--and everyone--from their good intentions. But this is much worse.

This is a different breed. This new breed is educated. They're sophisticated. They're tech-savvy, and they have a sense of historical context. They enjoy irony and vulgarity, they respect personal strength. They know that God is a metaphor, an insurance plan for the abyss.

It's not neo-nazis, it's not even racists--per se. Those relentless fuckers are simply old before their time and trying to fill their own IQ holes with first person shooters and crystal meth.

The real problem is those neighbors who get evolution and understand that homo-sapiens won the chromosome race through tribalism and duplicitous manipulation--and annihilation--of our Neanderthal cousins. They get Werner Hertzog. They know that the world started as a zero sum game and they value getting what you want out of life. They're oriented by results. They champion digital privacy while they download pirated content on bit torrents. They don't feel guilt and they get a big laugh out of people who do.

They hate being manipulated, and they're smart enough to know when it's happening. They didn't vote for trump for dumb "wall" promises. They voted for trump because they're closet anarchists who know that he's willing to lie, cheat, and steal to make the system more about winning and less about slowing down the whole team to nurture the unintelligent and lazy. These people are good at getting ahead, and they want to make being good at getting ahead more valuable. Understandably so.

If it were merely Jesus and guns and traditional inability to see the big picture (firmly misjudged--as always--as actually seeing the big picture) you'd have those moments at the end of the day where Trump was an unfortunate case of being "the best we have to work with." For lots of folks, perhaps even a majority of those who actually pulled the lever for him, that's what he was. They pulled the lever with slightly mixed feelings. They voted for him despite his bragging about pussy grabbing, not because of it.

But these are not his most troubling proponents. These are merely your Mom and Dad who wish he'd act more presidential, but are sick of their taxes going up. The most alarming members of his street team are people who have never truly cared about politics before because it was aways what Alex Jones called "Two management teams laying out a buffet of lies." And on that point, they're right. And they know they're right.

So when they see Trump fairly sophisticatedly lying to his base to manipulate them at rallies, these genetic winners fueled on tiger blood are in on the gag. Trump might stand for stupid, and (if tweets are the most honest and unrefined version of thoughts) he might be stupid, but being "intelligent" is not the same thing as being "clever."

And if you've been on the internet even twice since Y2K, you know that we don't live in the era of intelligent, we live in the era of clever.

That's a whole different and insidious problem for another time, and for a more intelligent writer than myself. You see, I slightly identify with these Trump colluders. I'm not an incredibly intelligent person. But I'm educated. And my Mom says I'm clever af.

So I'm not going to use the term "psychopaths" because most people have an inability to read that word without luggage. I'll refer to informed Trump fanatics as "Naturals." Because in nature, these are the people who get ahead. Civilizations and social welfare programs are entirely artificial, by definition. Hospitals, infrastructure, and universities... Taxes, beurocracies, laws, and police stations, these are all very unnatural things designed to keep the biggest and meanest with the heaviest stick from wandering around saying, "I'm gonna have rape for dinner."

When you see a reasonably intelligent white male on facebook referring to people who want help from the government to feed their family as "cucks," you should know that Naturals don't see privilege in the same context as we do. Luck is not to be savored and reflected on, it is to be capitalized on. They don't see every human being as equally valuable, they only judge value based on power. In a post-God world, this is an understandable view-point. And that's why Trump is so scary. His values aren't wrong, they're just horrifying. In an age where everyone can pick their own values, most of us are uncomfortable normalizing and mandating a value system where the captain of this sinking titanic is whoever can step on the most freezing and screaming faces on their way to the top.

And yet that's the way we're going, because who is going to stop it? Empaths aren't typically the right combination of vicious and conniving to undermine the Natural movement of power. The number of regular dudes who perished on D Day simply to topple government-gone-corporate is staggering.

The only thing I can think of off the top of my head is to kill em with kindness. Find whichever white male redditor in your life is still sharing the most anti-Hillary memes and say two nice things about them: One that's completely true, and one that's only half true. Their brain chemistry will react so as to reinforce the half-true behaviors. A year from now he'll hopefully have rounded that out to mostly true, and you can do it again with other characteristics. The mind is hackable and even bullies respond to love and affection. Just look at Trump's initial acceptance speech immediatly following the biggest "you really love me" moment of his life! He was gracious and he thanked Hillary for her service as Secretary of State! That was until more mockery from SNL came his way and Scrooge polypped back into a petty, insecure chode.

In the meantime, all my fellow post-God voters who've decided to throw in on the side of civilization and empathy will have to think subversively; think manipulatively, slightly psychopathically.

Vote like a Bernie, but think like a Natural.

Sassafras H. Wilmington is a retired carnival barker with soap-carvings in several Ramada Inns around the Ohio Valley area.

Confessions of an Elitist

I need the best methods for hunting moose. Fred has a liberal arts degree. Paul lives in rural Maine, he's been hunting for decades. I'm asking Paul because I'm an elitist.

I need to know which war movies are most realistic. Hardward store owner John fought in Iraq. Kyle has his masters degree in sociology. I'm an elitist, I'm asking John.

I need to know what kind of seed is best for farming okra. Larry is a writer for The New Yorker. Bill is a third generation farmer. Bill is the elite on this subject. I'm asking Bill.

I need to learn how to make a chair. Walter is a carpenter, Chris is a Harvard professor of economics. I'm deferring to Walter because elitism is the only sensible strategy for judging confidence in someone's knowledge.

Connotation is when words play directly on your emotions. Don't let yourself be taken advantage of.

Incredulity and the Weird Skepticism Paradox of 2016

The first time you flew on a plane, it probably felt surreal. It can be scary. It can seem to defy the senses. Many tons of heavy machinery, passengers, and cargo are crammed into a tube and sent into the air. You've seen cars stall out, why is this way more dangerous scenario going to be OK? Air travel negates intuition.

But if you've flown many times, you may be tempted to roll your eyes at the overwhelmed.  Because you've come to realize that the material properties of matter and motion are more real than your gut feelings. And also that life is a numbers game; your senses have had time to catch up--to a small degree--with the statistics.

"Gullible" and "naive” don’t exactly have the same meanings. Gullibility basically means the tendency to be manipulated due to believing anything one hears. Naivete is more vague, and slightly less pejorative. Naivete can be, in a small way, worthy of envy. It connotes innocence. A lack of jadedness. Nobody wants to be gullible, and people brag that they're not. But there's a certain wistfulness regarding naivete. Part of us longs for a simpler worldview. Reality bites, and that's why the naivete of the very young is, somewhat, to be envied.

Here's the biggest difference: naivete is not one's own fault, but gullibility results from one's own stupidity.

That difference is the reason why belief in fake news and automatic rejection of mainstream media sources has a surprising root in identity politics--protection of my identity as not being a fucking rube.

And yet... Like Marion Cotillard's character in Inception, one can be so driven by skepticism, by not wanting to miss out on the real reality, that one creates runaway incredulity feedback, becoming the ultimate tragic moron. Jogging in place, churning harder and faster into skepticism quicksand, some people are exerting themselves into a closed cognitive loop, impenetrable by information and reinforced by their own ego.

This isn’t a partisan issue, we’ve seen toddler-rage stupidity from both sides. On the left it’s been anti-vax, 9-11 trutherism, naturopathy, pacifism, identity politics, PC radicalization, and organics-as-pseudo-spirituality. On the right it’s been anti-vax, creationism, 2nd amendment fundamentalism, anti-PC radicalization, and a bizarre willingness to believe that Hillary Clinton is a murderer and child sex trafficker -- which would be downright funny in a parallel universe with less horrific presidential election results.

What you’re witnessing is gullibility which is built, tragically, on a psychological foundation of anti-gullibility. It’s a penrose staircase of insecurity lifted up by its own bootstraps. A self-perpetuating dynamo of oppressive anti-oppression. And I fear there’s no cure for it, except for lobotomy, electro-shock therapy, and unforgettable personal embarrassment.

Somewhere around 2008, Sarah Palin disparaged the “lamestream media” for reasons that had inadvertent merit. It’s true that everybody has an agenda, and not everybody’s greatest priority is the truth. But the funny thing about truth… It’s different than fact.  I don’t mean that facts aren’t true -- they’re sometimes true sometimes not -- I mean that “trueness” has a different body than factuality, and a different relationship to the human psyche. Truth is alluring, mesmerizing. Anyone with half an inner life or spirit of curiosity has gotta have it. All of it.

Facts are boring. Unsexy. They can be misleading. They need to be interpreted. They have no soul. And they’re always disagreed on. The best quality a fact could possibly have is accuracy. If you can say with equanimity that a fact is the truth, this is the ultimate validation. On its own, facts can’t carry the truth’s jock strap. (And say what you will about the fairytale-addicted Christian right, at least they’re driven by a belief in universal, objective truth. An ultimate reality where the holy trinity is either real or it isn't, as opposed to the choose-your-own reality of the crystal-gazing far-left. If only Christians' applications of incredulity weren't so troublingly selective when it comes to things they hear outside the church walls on Sunday...)

The difficulty with truth is that--even though it never changes--it has no vessel. It’s a concrete abstraction which can’t be grasped with crude flesh. It’s the spiritual receipt of events in spacetime. It’s the only metaphysic which can’t not exist. Even if you’re standing right next to it, you can’t simply bring it to other people, it’s like trying to shove a ghost into a U-Haul. All you can give are brittle arrows pointing in truth’s direction. Facts. There’s not much you can do to expose real unmitigated truth except to keep heaping on these arrow-crumbs like throwing powder in the face of an invisible man to view his outline. You still don’t see him but you have enough to information about his position to make better judgments.

So what makes something a fact? It’s not truth, unfortunately. It’s testimony. It’s hierarchies of consensus that aren’t permanent and that are subject to all sorts of biases. The Boston Massacre of 1770 is only a fact because of enough different sources (perhaps witnesses, police and coroner reports etc.) It probably truthfully happened, but it definitely factually happened.

OJ having killed his ex-wife may be the truth, but it ain't a fact. It’s just not. I believe he’s guilty and it’s becoming something closer to a fact every year since he lost the civil suit in ‘97. It’s a fact that lots of people think he’s guilty. It’s probably a fact that most people think he’s guilty. But this lack of verifiability, this failure in the hierarchy of human knowledge is the plane crash that alarms the jittery new passenger. It creates a dramatic temptation to treat facts like useless garbage for their unreliability, and to treat intuition, or the “feeling” of truth as worthy of merit.

The next time you go looking for
the truth, get the whole thing.
It’s like a good fuck -- half is
worse than none at all.
I grew up a New York Jets fan, and part of being a Jets fan is doing that stupid (but fun) J! E! T! S! chant. When I got to college, I met a whole bunch of serious Eagles fans. Both teams play in green uniforms; when I heard their fans refer to the birds as Gang Green, I was insulted that they were stealing the Jets fan nickname for our team. Gang Green was our cute play on words. I began to hear the E! A! G! L! E! S! EAGLES! chant, and I rolled my eyes at their blatant ripping off of the Jets style. Then a much smarter sports fan reminded me that the Eagles chant is part of their fight song, which pre-dates the entire existence of the Jets franchise. I will never forget that day.  I was mortified that I had been so easily self-deluded and that I had been preaching with the mere sensation of knowledge. Is there anything more embarrassing on the planet than motivated reasoning? Than being wrong loudly? Than earnestly believing something based on years of incorrect information? We all know a sports fan who reacts to a penalty against their team as bullshit while a non-call against the other team means the ref needs to have his eyes checked. Can anybody look more stupid?

People are too uncomfortable with uncertainty, and I get it. Do I know for a fact that secret societies don’t run trafficking rings through pizzerias? Do I know the truth? Honestly, I can’t ever know, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Whenever I hear a conspiracy theory, some sick part of me wants it to be true. A tiny gland in my brain squirts out a little happy juice and some adrenaline. Conspiracy theories offer the promise of architecture. The promise of design. I can’t imagine anything more fascinating than a secret ruling elite participating in rituals behind closed doors. I would love to learn that Hillary rigged the primary election against Bernie, that Putin helped Trump rig the general election against Hillary, that reality is a computer simulation and on and on and on. And I’m not one of those hippies who believes in embracing uncertainty for its beauty. I hate uncertainty. But I have to embrace it because it’s the only thing that’s real.

If you’re like me, you don’t want to be made a rube. You don’t want to be gullible. A laughing stock. You don’t want to be manipulated or taken advantage of. It would behoove us all to remind ourselves every minute of every day that the only way to live the 100% truth is by saying “I don’t know".