The Kavanaugh hearing underscored another eerie condition in contemporary USA life that offers clues about the combined social, economic, and political collapse that I call the long emergency: the destruction of all remaining categorical boundaries for understanding behavior: truth and untruth, innocent and guilty, childhood and adulthood, public and private.
The destination of all this confusion is a society that can’t process any quarrel coherently, leaving everyone unsatisfied and adrift, and no actual problems resolved.
One element of the story is clear, though. The Democratic party, in the absence of real monsters to slay, has become the party devoted to sowing chaos, mainly by inventing new, imaginary monsters using the machinery of politics, the way the Catholic Church manufactured monsters of heresy during the Spanish Inquisition in its attempt to regulate “belief.”
“I believe her” is the new totalitarian rallying cry, conveniently disposing of any obligation to establish the facts of any ambiguous matter. It was stealthily inserted in our national life during the Obama years, when Title IX “guidelines” originally written to correct imbalances in college sports funding for men and women were extended to adjudicate sexual encounters on campus.
The result was the setting up of officially sanctioned kangaroo courts where due process was thrown out the window — by people who have should have known better: college presidents, deans, and faculty. That experiment produced not a few spectacular injustices, such as the Duke Lacrosse team fake rape fiasco, the University of Virginia fake rape fraternity incident (provoked by a mis-reported storey in Rolling Stone Magazine), and the Columbia University “Mattress Girl” saga — all cases eventuating in punishing lawsuits against the institutions that allowed them to spin out of control.
The spirit of the kangaroo court has since graduated into business and politics where it has proven especially useful for settling scores and advancing careers and agendas dishonestly. Coercion has replaced persuasion. Coercion is at the heart of totalitarian politics. Do what your told, or else. Believe what we say, or else. (Or else lose your reputation, your livelihood, your friends….) This plays neatly into the dynamics of human mob psychology. When the totalitarians set up for business, few individuals dare to depart from the party line. It’s the perfect medium for cultivating mendacious ideologies.
And so many Americans may be wondering these days whether the ideas and principles that have held this country together, even through a disastrous civil war, can endure through a long emergency of exogenous events so overwhelming that we dare not even debate them publicly. These are climate change, the crack-up of a debt-based money system, the winding–down of techno-industrial economy, and the ecological destruction of the only planet that human beings call home.
Of course, the lives of societies, like everything else in a living universe, unfold emergently. Which is to say that circumstances are in the driver’s seat taking us where they will whether we like it or not. What humans can do is decide how to ride these events. For the moment, America has opted for a grand circus of sexual hysteria. It’s really an easy, lazy choice because sex is full of easily manipulated tensions and ambiguities prone to melodramatic misrepresentation.
Next on tap for this beleaguered nation will be a constitutional crisis and a financial crisis. It’s difficult to predict the order of their unfolding, except to say that these will open up a maelstrom of losses which will then be hard to either adjudicate or correct, once our system of law is compromised. As this occurs, all the raging hysteria over sex will be overshadowed by real existential issues as the people lose their homes, incomes, and futures and desperately search for a way out of more chaos than they bargained for.