I was walking through the pedestrian-only shopping center of Lausanne the other day. It was cool but sunny and I had my patrol pack slung over my left shoulder. Inside were my gym things, sweaty from the two-hour workout I’d just completed. A loaf of freshly-baked bread was in the outside compartment, a yeasty promise of lunch soon to be enjoyed.
Directly ahead of me a small child around four years of age was having a massive tantrum in the middle of the street, screaming “I CAN drive a car! I CAN! I CAN!”
His mother stood half bent over her child and as I passed I heard her say, “Francois, you’re not Donald Trump, you know. This won’t do you any good.”
This was on the same day that the President of the USA stood before a gathering of the world’s press and asked foreign powers to discredit his political rival. It was within hours of that same President screaming that anyone who does anything or says anything he doesn’t like is a traitor who should be arrested and then presumably executed.
In Europe, where civilized norms continue to struggle to persist in the face of mindless populism, the absolute acquiescence of the US Republican Party to mob rule looks a lot like how the German right-wing parties of the 1930s endorsed Hitler’s rantings because the mob was behind him too.
Republican voters in the USA, of course, don’t see it like that. Arguably they don’t actually see anything at all, because the GoP has persistently targeted the feeble-minded since the successful Nixon campaign of 1968 in which for the first time market segmentation techniques developed to sell breakfast cereals were used to place voters into groups so that effective messages could be delivered to each pertinent bloc. Over the following decades this approach was refined and expanded. Today, if you talk to someone who’s ignorant and slow-witted the overwhelming probability is that they vote Republican. Conversely, unless the person is very rich and merely wants yet more tax breaks, an intelligent person will tend to abstain or vote Democrat despite the fact the Democratic Party is hopelessly incompetent and incoherent.
That evening in Lausanne I sat with some acquaintances outside a bar. Eventually the conversation turned to the situation in the USA. No one around the table understood how Trump has been permitted to remain in the White House.
I explained that the most important outcome for every Republican politician is to be re-elected, at any cost. Despite all Trump’s obvious and dangerous incapacity for office, the fact is that nearly forty-three million simple-minded US voters remain firmly behind him whatever he says or does. They will always be behind him because they lack the neural capacity to change their minds. And so every single Republican politician who wants to hang on to the many privileges of elected office will cravenly submit to the drooling screaming mob because that will ensure re-election. Opposing Trump would be electoral suicide and no ambitious Republican politician is going to do that. Ever.
Republican politicians are driven by fear: fear of the mindless drooling howling mob they’ve been assiduously cultivating and encouraging for the last fifty years. Yes, this is irony manifested.
One of my acquaintances mentioned that Switzerland is now planning for future instability. The expectation is that Putin, facing declining popularity at home, will begin to meddle more overtly in the more susceptible European countries. Germany will submit without protest, the Baltic states are simply too vulnerable to protect, and all the right-wing populist Parties of Europe except PiS in Poland have already taken large payments from the Kremlin, in return for which they will do their Master’s bidding when required.
Apparently (and I have no way to independently verify this) the Swiss government is drawing up contingency plans for a future in which the EU crumbles, torn apart by mindless populist ranters, and devolves into nations each blaming other nations for whatever self-imposed harms they’ve created by means of sheer unrelenting stupidity and ignorance.
The Swiss aren’t fearful about invasion or subversion. They know their mountains keep them physically safe and the fact that every corrupt Russian politician has stashed away billions in Swiss banks keeps them safe from too much subversion. But they are fearful of a future in which Europe returns to the 19th century with all its attendant instabilities.
And so the Swiss look at the USA (and increasingly at the Brexit-infested UK) and see the future: ranting mentally unstable leaders screaming at everyone around, making irrational decisions and tearing their societies apart. They see ordinary people howling approval at every evil action (tearing children from their parents and throwing them into concentration camps, for example, or shutting down Parliament in order to ignore democracy entirely) while politicians and media propaganda outlets rush to pretend that evil is actually wholesome and good.
In short, the Swiss are beginning to prepare for the next 50 years. Everyone else, meanwhile, is likely to be caught by surprise because they’re looking only at the latest scandal, the latest meme, the latest sound-bite. We’re so obsessed with the daily trivia of fear that we’re failing to see the path ahead.
The Age of Morons is in full swing now, and the Age of Horrors is on its way. We should be fearful. Fearful enough to try to stop it, although it’s already far too late.