On Trump and the Convulsions of Dying Empires

It is a fact known all too well: The affairs of a dominant power become the whole world’s affairs. By imposing on everyone, the power inflicts its troubles on the world without sparing it from its whims. So it is with the United States as it was with the country’s European predecessors. Half opera buffa, half game of massacre, a surreal spectacle has unfolded for months in the United States under everyone’s astonished eyes. The turbulence is permanent. Not a week goes by without delivery of a new episode in the drama. Reality TV has been slow to catch up.

Is Trump the problem? If his faults are as big as Trump Tower, his tendencies are created by his environment. The establishment mocks the boorish idiot with the famous vocabulary. Trump certainly contributes to lowering intellectual discourse, but isn’t he just a product of the “twitterization” of minds, formatted to chirp in onomatopoeia and interjections, and incapable of thoughts exceeding 140 characters?

Trump’s censors deplore the liberties that he takes with facts. The threads of his fabrication and manipulation are long, but he clings to them. Isn’t politics bathed in falsity: camouflaging unpleasant facts, devising “creative” scenarios and imagery, creating cleverly forged clips? In the world of “alternative facts,” Trump is in good company.

All of this is part of a fashionable trend. In postmodernism, everything is perceptions, impressions, opinions, discourse, and subjective narratives. Validation by resorting to external facts is a trap, and so is the methodology of the quest for knowledge associated with modernity and expanded upon since the Renaissance. No verification is needed; all statements are valid. In this post-reality world, reality and fiction are synonymous. This is the breeding ground for fake news that pollutes the public space and infects the reproaches used by both Trump and his detractors.

Real-Time Riots and Shadow Theater

Rejection of Trump came the day he was elected; he was deemed an affront to the divine right of the establishment to appoint its leaders. The fishing for a real accusation against him continues. If nothing useful comes up, perhaps the fetid atmosphere will do the trick. Accustomed to venerating their commander in chief, the media have been dragging Trump through the mud as if he’s a Saddam Hussein, a Milosevic, or a Putin to overthrow. It remains to be seen whether their model is Watergate, or, in an ironic twist, some variant of the regime change techniques that the U.S. has used in several foreign countries. Trump’s enemies have been the masterminds.

A fierce fight for power is raging, and the stakes are enormous. Trump was elected to redirect the U.S. economy inward and to put an end to global militarized expansionism. An extensive program composed of intolerable heresies for the neoliberal, neoconservative establishment – especially any tightening of tensions with Russia, a prime target. Upon being elected, Trump became a rough, paralyzing president. Taken in hand by the Pentagon, he flipped like a pancake and quickly transformed his policies into a continuation of the foreign policy of Clinton, Bush and Obama.

Confusion and cacophony reign. Socio-economic issues are refracted and diverted by emotional culture (“values”) wars, which have become a substitute for political debate. Trump’s friends and opponents confront each other through identity and societal prisms that obscure the situation. The little guys are left behind, and workers, whose jobs are being exported (“deplorables,” according to Hillary Clinton), fall back on patriotism and traditionalism, if only in response to the cosmopolitanism, libertarianism, and political correctness of the well-thinking “liberal” elite and left-wingers on the east and west coasts. The confusion is complete.

The Twilight of American Hegemony

In the background of this hodgepodge is the impasse in which the U.S. imperial power finds itself. The “American century” hasn’t even lasted 20 years. Losing productivity and crippled by debts, the economy is facing stronger competitors. The gigantic military apparatus, designed to put the world under America’s tutelage, destroys admirably but has not taken control in any recent adventure. We are no longer living in colonial times.

To proclaim themselves exceptional and indispensable is not enough. So, how can they remain paramount despite all of the signs to the contrary? By persisting on the path of conquering the whole world, as the establishment wants, or by not having eyes bigger than their stomachs and making choices, as Trump desires? A dilemma of empires losing their primacy and at the end of their runs, this question is at the heart of the battles to come in the long years ahead.

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