This post is about excuses. It is not really about the excuses made by Trump and the Republicans or their followers. Those explanations typically don’t make too much sense. No, this post is about excuses and explanations used to explain the inaction of people who are or you’d think would be against what Trump and Republicans are doing.
Post impeachment acquittal Trump is now openly and brazenly attacking his ‘enemies’. Otherwise known as people doing their job and trying to maintain the republic often at great personal risk. Some of which in the past might even have been called heroes. So you might think and hope you’d see large scale push back from the American population.
The reality is far more muted.
The people actively doing something are dwarfed by the people doing nothing. Many are acting as if everything is normal, even if they think what is going on is bad or even terrible. So what’s that all about?
Well it’s hard to know 100% for sure, and there are perhaps enumerable reasons, but I think we can break it down and attempt to categorize it. The categories I’m going to use are
- Nihilism: It’s going to happen anyway. I am powerless. Nothing makes any difference. “Burn it Down!”. Apocalyptic thinking.
- It Doesn’t Effect Me: It doesn’t/won’t effect me. It will hurt “the other people” more.
- Escapism: Moving abroad. Prepping. In the exciting culmination of a civil war, with guns and pluck I/we’ll beat the bad guys.
- The Sign: Waiting for an unequivocal ‘sign’, that may never happen or even if it does it’s too late. Waiting for a never defined or constantly moving line to be crossed.
- It’s “Fine”: Normalization. Trust the process (impeachment/investigations/democracy etc).
- It’s somebody else’s problem: Things have worked out before. The ‘checks and balances’ will sort it. I’m too busy. Republicans will ‘realize’ and do something (they won’t).
- Burnout: It’s too exhausting. It never ends. I can’t watch/read/hear any of it.
Below I talk a little more about how these different excuses manifest themselves, and hopefully persuade you that for most people most of the time they are empty in the face of the reality of what life will be like if we continue down this path
Many people it seems are nihilistic. They appreciate things are bad, and then use a form of false equivalency to claim that things have been bad in the past so… “It’s fine”.
A widely popular idea is “burn it down”. The thought here is that the government is so broken, that the whole thing must be destroyed and then rebuilt. The root of thought might be around the frustrations around politics. Nothing seems to change or improve. It could also be about similar frustrations around peoples lives, irrespective of it’s origins. If you believe government is not working for you, then the idea of burning it down is compelling. It’s a way to satisfy the frustration, to punish the politicians and ‘elites’, and because in this line of thought things are really bad, that somehow it won’t effect you, or it will hurt “the right people” more.
It would be easy to write pages on why this idea is terribly dangerous. In summary…
- It will effect you and the people around you. Probably in profoundly bad ways. Ways that also might be hard to predict.
- If you feel powerless now, you will likely be far more powerless. Not least because the rule of law and ‘checks and balances’ will be really broken. Arbitrary punishment for some. Crime and corruption unopposed for others.
- There is no vision. “Burn it down” doesn’t provide any insight on what this better future will be, how it will work, or even why it will be better. Somehow something better will appear. Implying at a minimum a long, painful, dark transition. There is no need for the future to in any way be better for you. Most likely it will be worse.
- If you have a leak under your sink, burning down the house and rebuilding it would be absurd.
- “Burn it down” assumes it leads to some ideally better rebirth, but that doesn’t have to happen. You might have just just burnt down your home and have to now live in the rubble.
Some people take the position that there is nothing they can do – they are powerless. Clearly that’s not the case, and the last post I gave some fairly straightforward things that most anybody can do at least some of. Are you not willing to even try?
Other people are engaging in a overt and purposefully nihilistic plan. These people are part of the “evangelical apocalypse cult” – where they are trying to bring about the end of days, so that they will go to heaven and their enemies hell. Which is bizarre, as doing such a thing is expressly forbidden in the Bible. So even if they were ‘right’ (spoiler – they aren’t) they would at a minimum be going to hell and are certainly not engaging in Gods work. I realize this sounds absurd, because it is. This is more an issue with Trump followers, but I felt I had to include it because it’s such a blatant and extreme form of nihilism.
Some people may rationalize that they are waiting for “The Sign” and/or they will “Escape”. Well that’s probably not going to happen – and even if you were able to do that, have factored in the costs to yourself, your family, friends?
That because they claim they don’t have agency they can absolve themselves of responsibility and effort. That’s just lying to yourself. If you do nothing and the republic is lost to fascism/right wing authoritarianism/dictator, in not doing anything it will in part be your fault.
It Doesn’t Effect Me
The unfortunate truth is that people are generally poor at taking into account medium and long term effects. Things become real when something has an effect right now. On the flip side a fairly small negative change now can produce a huge response. Things that have a large or even huge impact in the future can and often are ignored. Somehow they are not real, there is time to do something about them, they may never happen or they don’t effect me.
It probably is effecting you. Having to deal with the daily chaos and stupidity surely has an effect. If you switch off, then that’s just a form of denialism.
That somebody reading this or other blog posts I’ve made might conclude that I have a problem with conservative policies or perhaps am a liberal booster. No, you misunderstand the problem. The big problem. The problem that is getting increasingly worse. That is the full on corruption of government itself. That Trump is obviously corrupt. He’s getting increasingly corrupt people to his dirty work. The checks and balances are being shown to not be able to deal with this. Republicans have no shame – they are all in. I’d point out many of the actions of Trump and the Republicans are certainly not ‘conservative’ – like off the top of my head the deficit, family values, law and order.
So what does a future increasingly corrupt America look like? It’s hard to know precisely. There will be a lot of unintended consequences, most of which will be bad for most people. There might be a few arbitrary ‘winners’ – probably some subset of the already super rich and super corrupt. Needless widespread suffering. No easy way to do anything about it. Continuing and worsening chaos, scandal, frustration. No resolution. It is unlikely to be temporary it could go on for decades. All whilst America declines into corruption, inefficiency, non-competitiveness, arbitrary suffering, insignificance and malaise.
Look to Putins Russia for an idea. This could be a gross underestimation. It doesn’t take much imagination or history to see where this dark path can lead.
If you think living in a society like that won’t effect you then you are seriously deluding yourself
One of my personal ‘favorites’ at the moment is escapism. People taking this line of thought think things are bad. They are worried that things could get worse. But they imagine if things get really bad they will escape, typically to another country. Canada turns out to be a popular choice, so you might wonder if Canada is ready for this huge influx. There’s elements of “Nihilism” as well as “The Sign” here. Some observations:
- Not every country will want you
- It might take a long time to accept you even if they do
- You may have to leave everything whilst it sorts out. How confident are you that it will still be yours?
- When is “The Sign” to leave? Will that be too early or too late?
- It is difficult, time consuming and expensive to move to a different country
- Many will need to get a new job. Find new friends. Perhaps learn to be part of a significantly different culture.
- If “The Sign” has happened, presumably lots of other people will try and do something similar.. making probably much more difficult
- You may not be able to leave
- Presumably this is all about you and maybe your family. What about your friends? Neighbors? Community? Country?
I don’t bring up these issues to say it’s impossible. It’s possible of course – but it will take a lot of money, effort and time. That I would predict for most people “The Sign” will be much too late, and then it might be really difficult or even impossible. The argument can be made if you are serious about this solution, you should start your move right now.
I’m a fan of the show Doomsday Preppers. Most of the peoples reasons for their prepping seem very unlikely. That said the ‘break down of society’ seem more plausible the way things are going. That there is an allure to prepping, in that you see the threat and you are doing something about it – for you and your family. If you aren’t doing anything about the actual threat though, it seems like a huge amount of effort to combat the symptoms. Even with all that effort realistically it can only be a band aid on a very dark time. The other perplexing aspect is that many preppers probably do not see Trump and his corruption as an existential threat at all. It’s as if they are blind to an actual “Sign”.
Doesn’t at least trying to stop the rot seem like a much simpler and option? Not only will it be cheaper and better for you – it would be for your fellow country folk. You can still try and “escape” nothing is particularly lost.
The sign is the tendency for people to wait for some clear signal that they should do something.
The first thing to say about this is that we are in a frog boiling scenario. What is acceptable and normal is changing every day. What people would have thought is outrageous in 2016, is now out there and ‘normal’ – like Russian interference, obvious and direct abuse of power, open and clear corruption and the eroding of ‘checks and balances’ system such that it largely doesn’t work.
In things happening this way, “The Sign” never happens until it’s too late. Perhaps you get “The Sign” when it effects you or someone you know directly. When there are jackboots in the street (which might never happen but we are no longer in a democracy). That there is a civil war – as if that is a good thing so people realize the republic is in trouble.
We are arguably cued to “The Sign” being the “oh shit” moment from a Hollywood block buster. For a lot of people this seems to be akin to a “Red Dawn” moment, where we are clearly under attack. There is full scale civil war. Part of this fantasy is that with their pluck, heroism and most likely guns the “good guys” will somehow win. The main point I’m trying to make here, is that “The Sign” is unlikely to happen in such a clear and blatant way. We will stumble into tyranny by many small, unexciting stops.
Point is there have been many clear signals, but the goal posts are constantly moving so you can convince yourself it appears “It’s Fine”. The fact there aren’t millions of people in the street is also taken as an opposite sign, that it’s a problem. Then most people are waiting for most people to create a Sign. So nothing happens.
That being the case we could be in full blown autocracy, kleptocracy and people still haven’t seen “The Sign” and if they have, well it will likely be too late.
“It’s fine” is the tendency to constantly re-normalize the situation.
The Mueller report came out. It said he should be impeached – because next steps could not take place through the legal system (a debatable assertion). That didn’t happen, even though there were 10 counts that were believed to be strong enough to do so. He is impeached on obvious abuse of power and obstruction of congress. The senate Republicans hold a sham trial, and then shamelessly acquit. Bar and Trump coordinate – corrupting justice. Pardoning criminals. A member of the supreme court says it’s broken.
Where are millions of people on the street? There were people on the streets of course – but not enough to be ‘the Sign’.
Nothing happens. When there is obvious obstruction and criminality there are rarely and consequences. When there are implications – such as in the Roger Stone case, the rule of law is pushed to be reversed. Trump is happy to pardon anybody if it helps him in some way, or irritates his ‘enemies’.
You might say ‘it can’t happen here’ – this is America! The land of the free! The constitution! To which I’d just say look around – it is happening. That at each point it had a chance of being stopped (like Impeachment/Mueller trial and many other points) it failed. It’s slipping away. It can happen here. It may well happen unless people like yourself take action.
One way of coping with all this is to pretend it’s not that bad. To pretend that it will all be sorted in the election. To say all politicians are bad (so false equivalency if nothing else). To say it doesn’t really effect me, or perhaps claiming the worst of it is happening to Trump/Republican supporters. As if that’s ok.
Well it isn’t fine. If you can’t see that right now – there isn’t perhaps much I can add to try and push you out of your warm cozy bubble. But here goes.
It’s not fine. Trump is a Right wing Authoritarian, who openly and vocally wishes to be a dictator. He is corrupting everything and everyone around him to make that happen. That if it does it will effect you, your family and people around you. Your excuses are a warm cozy empty illusion.
It’s Somebody Else’s Problem
You might realize things are really bad. That they can get much worse and there is a good probability they will, but then think why do I have to do anything about this? It’s not my fault.
For most people they haven’t in their lifetimes had to do anything other than vote. Perhaps they didn’t even do that. But on the whole everything was “fine”. Or if not fine – that even their vote didn’t make a difference – therefore they have no agency. So shrugs.
Perhaps they feel they don’t need to do anything because the 2020 election will sort this out. I’ve already covered this. There’s no certainty that Trump will not win 2020. He may legitimately win. He may cheat to win (the Republicans are doing this in the open with Gerrymandering). He may be helped by other parties/countries to win (cough Russia, Facebook, cough). He may lose, but claim he won. He may lose and say it doesn’t matter – it wasn’t real, it’s Fake news. So at a minimum it would be huge risk to put all your eggs into that basket.
Perhaps they are too busy to do anything. They have work. Maybe they have kids. So nameless other person needs to sort this out. Really? People typically have lots of time for other non essential things. You would make time if your child was hurt or sick. You presumably wouldn’t go to work if you were sick or hurt. Are you telling me that 100% of all of your time is selflessly doing stuff for other people that only you can do and that you have no time to do anything else? It’s not impossible, but for the vast majority of people it’s not true. How do you think things will be for you if Trump stays in power? Do you think then you’ll have loads of time? Then to really jump on board stopping the dictatorship? Because it’s going to be way harder and more time consuming then.
In the spirit of “The Sign” many people are waiting for other people to give them “The Sign” that they should do something. Which amounts to the same thing.
If you think other people should be doing something, you should be asking yourself “why am I not doing anything?” and “what can I do?”.
Out of all the excuses in some way this is the most understandable. It is exhausting. Every day something new and terrible and/or stupid happens.
Occasionally something works out, but often efforts just dead ends. All the while more and more corruption happens. Keeping up with it all is easily a full days job. All the while you hear a constant stream of lies and bullshit from Trump, Republicans, Fox News, talking heads and his supporters.
I hear you. For your sanity it makes sense to limit how much you look into the dark heart of the Trump Republicans crime project. It is important to stay informed, but you don’t need to know about every thing going on or all of the details.
Don’t get exhausted by the shit stream. Spend 10-30 mins a day knowing what’s going on. Spend the majority of your available efforts and sanity on doing something to make it stop.