When members of the United Nations laugh at the President of the United States, not at a joke, but at a preposterous ascertain of being “the best,” you can viscerally feel what the rest of the world really thinks about American exceptionalism and about Trumpian exceptionalism.
When Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Senate GOP misogynists claim themselves to be innocent champions of law and hierarchy who are being victimized by ‘hysterical,’ finger-pointing women dredging up inconvenient truths from their sexist pasts in some witches’ brew of conspiracy, then you really see how low and bestial American culture can get. It takes blaming the victim to sulfurous depths where women, and men who admire and respect them, are subjected to the endless grinding whine of sex and gender power tools hollowing out the soul of America.
And now we see the loathsome possibility of having two penis-waving misogynists on the Supreme Court, despite the eloquent heroism of Anita Hill and Christine Blasey Ford. This prospect turns the highest levels of the judicial system into the porno version of a Punch and Judy farce. It’s entirely possible that within the next year or so we might see the end of the Supreme Court’s protection of privacy and the consequent overturning of Roe v. Wade. The country could be hurled back into white-sheet puritanism where noble, god-fearing patriarchs drag women around by the hair and other parts and pieces, while claiming for themselves the status of conservative arbiters of right and wrong.
In the last half-century, America has gone from the Age of Aquarius and the counterculture, which despite itself was riven with misogyny (the patriarchy never misses a chance), to Donald Trump and triumphant phonyism, to Brett Kavanaugh and the misogyny of unlimited patriarchal power in the White House. We have gone from E.F. Schumacher and Small Is Beautiful to crooked banks and the economic collapse of 2008. Corporate imperialism has made our world almost unsurvivable while vociferously denying it has even played a role.
It’s also entirely possible that the environmental revolution started by Rachel Carson and so many others in the 1960s was defeated almost before it got off the ground and that the victory of the massive and unaccountable corporate giant (with legal personhood and patriarchal power) has created a world to which human beings, the great adapters, can no longer adapt. A world of blasted battlefields, broken soldiers and their families, desiccated countrysides and swamped cities, the outcome of globalized industrialization, petroleum wars and our intransigence at weaning ourselves collectively from the use of fossil fuels.
There is an alternative view of course, a counter view, that the civil war that pits a proto-Trumpian confederacy against an anti-slavery, anti-misogyny, anti-pollution world of civic, human and eco-rights is still in progress, with the outcome far from being decided. This view sees evidence that the remnants of the counterculture warriors of the sixties and their children and grandchildren are still fighting for a vision of the world embodied in a E.F. Schumacher’s book, ”Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered,” in Rachel Carson’s vision of a triumphant spring, in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Rights Amendment that never passed.
It is entirely possible that the Kavanaugh hearings will be the final straw for millions of American women and their male allies who will eventually drive the misogynists out. It could even be the starting point for the creation of a neo-Aquarian counterculture that will work to further the ends of the anti-war, equal rights and environmental credo of the counterculture that confederate conservatives have worked so hard to trivialize and banish for good. Maybe we’ll pay heed again to the values of Martin Luther King, Jr. when he observed in 1968 that somewhere along the way, “We have allowed the means by which we live to outdistance the ends for which we live.” Surely, it is time for an uprising of those who see the goals of economic, gender and racial justice, along with the morality of peace and the life and death necessity of a pollution-free planet, as worthy “ends for which we live.”
The contrast among low-wage servitude and Trumpian narcissism, Kavanaughian sexism and Republican forms of flaccid materialism is seen clearly in the work of E.F. Schumacher, a still marginalized thinker and icon of a neo-Aquarian world view. Schumacher’s “Small Is Beautiful” dissected the modern economy and found it unsustainable, gobbling up resources, poisoning the common environment and cementing income inequality and destitution at murderous levels. He advocated “sustainable development,” “appropriate technologies” and “decentralization” to overturn rapacious globalism. Schumacher urged us to recognize that the planet can absorb only so much pollution before climate goes haywire and the human-made environment becomes uninhabitable. “Small Is Beautiful” was first published in 1973.
It is entirely possible that an overwhelmingly powerful coalition of anti-misogynists, environmentalists, marginalized minorities and the non-commercialized creative community that constitutes the new counterculture could come together in the future and turn the tide from doomsday absurdities to create a humanitarian vision of renewed vigor and rehabilitation of a world gone bad.
Looking at Trump and Kavanaugh, and not throwing in the towel, there really is no real alternative for millions of us who still revere Carson, Dr. King, Schumacher and the Women’s Movement as pioneers of goals worth living for.
*Nullius in verba: take nobody’s word for it