In order to fully demonstrate my point I will refer to examples in House of Cards and The Walking Dead. You don’t have to have seen the shows to understand as I elaborate on them. To understand the ticking time bomb we are living in and why it is a ticking time bomb we must first understand a fundamental aspect of the nature of leadership and examples of it found in these two shows. The parallels between the shows and living under Trump are uncanny.
A fundamental element of leadership is knowing when to use violence and to what extent, but more importantly is the reasons why. Take The Governor in The Walking Dead. After the town of Mayberry is gone The Governor finds himself as leader of a relatively large group of people displaced from the apocalypse and the loss of Mayberry, however he is ruling the community with two other people. One of them knows the unspoken rule of leadership, its violent nature while the other does not. The three of them go out to find food and come across a group of campers with an abundance of supplies. Both The Governor and the other leader standing to his right know what has to be done to maintain the unsustainable lifestyle of the people but the leader standing to his left is taken aback by the brutality of such an act. They leave the campsite without a trace much to The Governor’s dismay.
What The Governor is doing in this scene is precisely what Frank Underwood is doing in the first scene of House of Cards (the necessary but inconvenient act of killing a dog who was run over by a car to end its suffering and to decrease the pain of the dogs owners when they find him). In the case of The Governor the moral justification for his actions are less apparent but it is nonetheless necessary. To ensure the livelihood of his people, and to protect their unsustainable way of life he has to kill people of other small campsites and settlements and rob their campsites for supplies and food. The other leader was taken aback by this unspoken rule, this inconvenient truth of leadership, and thus in order to protect the people from finding out so blatantly this unspoken truth The Governor kills him. Was this necessary? To stay in power it was, but more importantly it was necessary to maintain the peoples unsustainable way of life.
I cannot help but draw a parallel to US imperialism today. We all know the inconvenient truth behind the wars in the Middle East. We all know the brutal nature of US imperialism, the millions and millions killed in wars for the acquisition of resources, what is essentially the robbing of other countries by crushing them with massive debt in order to get them to sell their resources for a cheap price to US companies. This violence is necessary to maintain the global capitalist system and thus the way of life for millions in the so-called first world. We also know the inconvenient truth (as did the people living under The Governor in The Walking Dead) that this way of life is unsustainable. In that regard is The Governor’s actions any more morally wrong than the actions of our government? Of course imperialism is very complicated, and foreign policy even more so. This is simply said so blatantly to not sugar coat the nature of imperialism, yes it is a complicated issue but I am not here to elaborate on how imperialism works. Imperialism is always an ulterior motive. The purpose of this is to show the A and the E of imperialism but not the B C and D. But this is a moral and economic discussion for a different time.
In both situations there is the irrefutable unsustainability of the lifestyles of the people. What made their lifestyle so unsustainable? It was to live as nothing bad was happening, to have normal family life and play games such as hide and go seek outside in such a world. To have an abundance of food and water at nearly all times and to not get their hands dirty by killing zombies. All of these things are absolutely unsustainable and the people seem to know this to some degree. But it is their lack of acting on this knowledge that gets most of them killed in the end. Is the same not true for America? We all know the unsustainability of the capitalist system (at least as it exists today), and of our never-ending reckless consumption due to its effect on our planet; we know it is destroying our planet beyond repair and that we have likely passed the point of no return. In this regard the state, and in our case the leader or leading party acts in the interests of shielding the people from what is really going on by whatever means necessary.
Because the republicans are more the party of the ‘big capitalist’ and the democrats of the ‘small capitalist’ the republicans are the first to defend the fossil fuel industries and deny the existence of global warming entirely (thanks largely to the traditional anti-science, anti-intellectual stance of conservatives). We see this on traditional democratic ‘left’ too but not in the form of blatant denial. It is the attitude of ‘oh yes we’re fucked but not fucked enough to stop consuming as we are. Just buy a hybrid and recycle and we’ll be okay’. Both sides to one degree or another deny the actuality of how fucked we are, of how absolutely unsustainable the current capitalist system, and the system at large really is. In both situations the lifestyles of the people are unsustainable and it is the inability to address this truth directly that leads to the total and complete destruction of society, or in our case of humanity at large.
We see the left leaning liberal and social democratic left trying to address this issue not by overturning capitalism but by regulating it more. The more left leaning liberal democrats and the green party seem to have an understanding of the scale of this issue and I applaud them for that, however the way to address capitalism within the framework of a capitalist system is difficult to say the least and requires a fundamental and radical change in our energy system and thus our economy at large. This of course requires is what we would call the ‘welfare state’ capitalism of Scandinavia and other countries. But even this is recognized as not nearly enough, in order to address this problem requires an extreme change in the way we consume, create and use energy yesterday. The liberal left only wishes to change the energy system and is perfectly content in maintaining the culture of reckless consumption that crates massive amounts of trash and non-biodegradable waste which is filling our oceans and destroying the ecosystem. Look at Norway for example, a liberal social democratic country that boasts having 100% renewable energy. This is certainly good, but the top exports of Norway are Crude Petroleum($45.1B), Petroleum Gas ($43.6B), and Refined Petroleum ($6.56B), all of which are fossil fuels that are contributing to the problem. This is a prime example of the impossibility to fully address this issue under capitalism. But at least it is a step in the right direction.
The conservative backlash to these reforms is radical, but only in the sense that it is radical as to not change the status quo. They are doing in essence what the people living under The Governor were doing, ignoring the problem until it explodes and kills everybody. The blatant denial of science is not really an issue for the conservative right. First and foremost most religious fundamentalists are conservatives, and even as a religious person myself I am appalled by the anti-scientific and anti-intellectual attitude of this group of people. The belief that the world is only 6000 years old and that the world will end soon anyways isn’t helping anybody. They already deny the big bang and the existence of evolution so climate change and global warming are non-issues. Combine this with the fact that the entire party is in the pockets of big business and insists that it is not a serious and one can see how we have a president who believes that global warming was a hoax invented by the Chinese to slow the development of US industry. We see the same denial of Climate Change by the Republican Party as we saw they did about the dangers of smoking. But this time it is even worse. It won’t just be people getting cancer and other illnesses and dying 50 years from now, it will be all of humanity dying and not having a habitable planet in 300 years, perhaps even less.
If we do not take radical action now, or better yet yesterday on this issue our children will not have a future. Of course I am not going to bank on the inevitable collapse of capitalism happening anytime soon, so even I would support the establishment of a capitalist welfare state that would regulate the hell out of industry and transform our energy system in order to reduce the effects this disaster. The radicalism of maintaining the status quo is really what is so dangerous about Trump. It is not merely that he’s going to establish a fascist state or that he is too authoritarian, it is that he is content on doing what The Governor is doing in pretending everything is okay when it isn’t. Of course all presidents do this in regards to imperialism but it is particularly alarming in the case of global warming. When imperialism collapses it will be the fall of capitalism, but when the ability to ignore climate change collapses it will be the end of humanity at large.
There has never been a more serious issue in all of human history. It is an existential threat on the scale of that posed by nuclear war. Its inevitability is certain if we do nothing, and likely even if we do everything we possibly can. But to ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist is the worst of sins, and among a world leader it is unforgivable. It is the trait of a leader who wants to maintain the status quo at the expense of all of humanity. It is the trait of a leader who is too blinded by greed and selfishness to understand the gravity of the situation, and that is no leader at all!