Let us meet
And question this most bloody piece of work
To understand it further.
1] I was talking to my friend R. who hawks the local journal of the homeless on Mariahilferstraße. R. was having a hard time understanding what this Trump election is all about, and so I said:
If you think the people who voted for Trump are poor and downtrodden and justifiably angry, think again. I was back in Florida on the morning after the election, and the typical Trump voter was sitting next to me at breakfast. The typical Trump voter, if statistics are to be believed, earns over $70,000 dollars a year, and that’s a lot of newspapers. This particular typical Trump voter weighed about 300 pounds and was complaining about his diabetes when not wondering aloud if Hillary Clinton was a senator or maybe an official of some sort—he didn’t know.
Also, I told R., this typical Trump voter’s idea of exercise is walking from his air-conditioned house in his gated community to his car. R. said, for someone weighing 150 kilos with diabetes that’s a really bad idea. I was quietly thinking maybe he wouldn’t last the next four years.
2] We’d come down to Florida to watch election returns with family—moral support, you know. It turns out G. had actually voted for Trump: G. who doesn’t work, who has her yoga and Pilates, two cars in the garage, and who voted Trump because, as she explained, “I feel disenfranchised.”
3] In Florida the day after the election I met many of the fired or the potentially fired. There was the waitress at the Cuban café to whom I tried to translate Brecht’s Song of the Moldau, and then we both broke down crying. There were the two women in the consignment shop (actually three with L.) who hugged and cried, and then we had a long discussion about whether neuro-science explained the Trump voter, that’s how desperate people were to understand. There was a red-eyed shopkeeper and I asked if she had allergies or was it the election, and then we talked about grandparents who’d come to this country out of terrible suffering, and who thrived. And then there was the owner of an elegant antiques store who described herself as politically involved, in DC, yet: “If Trump thinks he’s going to have his say in Washington there’s going to be plenty of resistance.” “Yes,” said L., “but they have guns.” “And we’ve got guns, too,” she said. Not what you expect to hear from Beltway insiders.
4] C. is a sophisticated guy, he studied in France and now he teaches and practices in New York City. He’s descended from a prominent family of Southern slave owners and politicians. Somebody once asked him if he ever thought about that; he said he tried not to think about it too much, but apparently he’d been thinking too much already. R. is from Africa, and so she doesn’t grasp why the color of a person’s skin should make others uncomfortable, considering there are so many blacks in America to begin with; so I had to explain that it’s hard for an American like C. to encounter a black face without thinking of his family’s own responsibility in the matter of that person’s presence, experience, and existence; that Americans have only two choices in this matter, either to assume responsibility, or to reject responsibility, in murderous indifference. Trump’s election was, on all levels, a massive, narcissistic denial of personal responsibility. C., meanwhile, has defriended half his Facebook list, including high-school friends and family. And if you think C.’s family is pickup-driving rednecks, you’re wrong. They’re old, educated Southern Aristocracy, of the type that loves to pretend they’re one with the rednecks when it suits them.
5] Back on the Upper East Side in Manhattan we had a Starbucks get-together with H. and S.. H. is one of those cultured women d'un certain age, retired from years as “executive assistant” to white male Republicans half her age and a quarter her style. S. is younger, a lawyer. The conversation turned to Trump and what is to be done, and there was a strong sense among us all that first one had to think about what had been done and how, and from me a sense that, before one started to think one had to figure out how one had been thinking all along. This was hard for H. and S., but for different reasons. H. is used to dealing in emotional constellations, the horrified acknowledgment that this or that has happened with the implicit fear that nothing can be done. S. was torn between her feelings and her lawyer’s habit of not trusting feelings as a guide to action. I meanwhile was trying to provide the narratives, because that’s how I help myself and others to make sense of things: by providing narratives that first appeal to sensual experience (it’s a trick I learned from Dante) while those same narratives hold out the possibility of unfolding into rational explanations the way a convoluted piece of Arabic calligraphy unfolds into the perfect mirror of the World.
6] But then, all narratives are counter-narratives, as is this very narrative: there’s the story that Scheherazade is going to get her head cut off you see, and then there’s Sheherazade’s own story, take your pick who wins. Marx’s famous line about Hegel’s unknown line about History repeating itself never happened: in Marx’s telling it’s not History that repeats itself (which for Hegel as in Diamat would be nonsense anyhow), it’s the actors who are consciously trying to perform or rewrite a play (A Stück, Marx calls it, a shtick if you prefer) that they themselves are hell-bent on misunderstanding; who imagine they’re repeating History, an all-too-happy but false consciousness. And this is where we start.
7] Oddly enough, and again and again, the folks most eager to deny any connection between Trump’s election and the rise of Nazism (and who deny it with the same illogical system of reasoning that made Nazism possible) are using the counter-narrative developed by the Nazis themselves. Like so many narratives, the truth of this one lies in that which its performance attempts to conceal: the story, as articulated by Hitler himself as early as 1919, was that the Party was not, itself, violent or racist, it merely reflected the spontaneously violent and racist mind of the Volk itself which, because it was the Volk, was justified in protecting itself from the murderous intention of others. One of the most common myths about the rise of the Nazis is the argument that Nazism first spread among the lower classes, when in fact it first prospered in academic milieux and the upper middle class. You know how desperate the fight for tenure gets...
8] Of course this form of falsification of social consciousness didn’t start with the Nazis, or end with them. Marx, in his 1869 introduction to the 18th Brumaire, fingers Proudhon who
for his part, seeks to represent the coup d'état as the result of an antecedent historical development. Inadvertently, however, his historical construction of the coup d'état becomes a historical apologia for its hero. Thus he falls into the error of our so-called objective historians.
The other day the New York Times has an editorial not much different from all the other stuff that’s circulating in the mainstream: it’s written by some two-bit business-school hustler, and argues that the real cause of Trump’s election isn’t corrupt businessmen small and large, it’s those people who most actively oppose corrupt businessmen—you know, the Jews and Commies. Today the Times (again) explains that those who are too stressed by Trump's election turn to yoga, but what if those who turn to yoga are the ones who voted Trump in? This kind of talk deflects attention from the real undertows of the recent election: “how the class struggle […] created circumstances and relationships that made it possible for a grotesque mediocrity to play a hero's part,” as Charlie put it—the massive voting fraud in both parties, or the fact that the respective performances of both major presidential candidates merely offered divergent models of the same role, the Boss. While it’s possible a fair number of the working and not-working poor connected with Trump’s “You’re fired” attitude, it’s far more likely that the true Trump voter is the boss, the entrepreneur, the local official. Trump’s talk is not the talk of the lower class, it’s the talk of middle managers, petty bureaucrats and small businessmen, not the fired but those who do the firing. This is also true of Norbert Hofer, the Austrian Trump; it's true of France, and England.
This is your story, Sheherazade, you must tell it ‘til the morning comes. The narcissistic housewife; the two-bit businessman; the privileged kid who just won’t grasp that he’s no better than the black kid sitting next to him: these are the ones who need to have their noses rubbed in their own caca. Which Muse do I invoke? Twerpsichore? Lie-o?