Thursday, January 10, 2019

What's Next in the Future of Cults?

For several years people have been exposed to the idea that if they all shoot themselves in the foot they will receive a shower of unimaginable riches: handicapped car permits, enhanced pensions and health care, as well as a renewed sense of solidarity with their handicapped brethren.
In the UK, the argument convinced a majority of the population to make that commitment. When the ruse was exposed showing that the promised golden shower would be very different from what they had been led to expect, die-hard cult leaders stepped in to claim that “democracy” required that the voice of the people be respected and that there would be no going back. Logic might have suggested that the Make Britain Great Again cult should be simply seen as a momentary collective lapse of judgment and reconsidered.

I do recall that after a centuries-long, half-hearted campaign to replace imperial units, in 1973 the UK joined the EEC and was obliged to adopt the metric system. Remember, that going back as far as the 1660’s, British scientists and engineers were at the forefront of metrication. As adopted, it included the ingeniously modular system of paper sizes and required abandonment of quaint non-decimal units of currency such as shillings and guineas. There has been some backlash. The pint will never die in Britain. After nearly a half century, human weights are still often announced in stone and distances are given in miles. All peoples of the earth are peculiar in that they are unique but the Brits seem to revel in their eccentricities more than most. Therefore, an eleventh hour reversion to reason is less than a sure bet.

What then might some of the effects of Brexit be, in terms of restoring Britain to past glory? We are reasonably sure that the Government of India will not go along with restoring the sovereignty of the Queen over the sub-continent, even though that would give car makers such as Land Rover and Jaguar their British identity back. German brands such as Mini and Rolls Royce, as well as all the major Japanese makes, still produce cars in the UK but with a new system of tariffs, that may prove untenable.

Will the metric system, partial or not, be revoked in a bid to make the special relationship with the USA more special? That’s a thorny issue since British pints are larger than US pints and President Trump is not known for compromise. Will the special relationship lead to Brits being required to eat anything that the FDA and the US Dept of Agriculture deem fit for human consumption? Will it mean that the UK, now freed from EU meddling, will fall under the umbrella of US Homeland Security?

Brexit may halt the painfully slow introduction of mixing taps into the British plumbing system but a reversion to the old hot and cold taps will be hindered by the loss of untold thousands of Polish plumbers who already left with their devalued pounds in the wake of the 2007 economic collapse. The edible food revolution may be harder to reverse, even if the formerly young unemployed Italians who sparked it are sent home, since nearly two generations of Britons have grown accustomed to eating edible food.

On the other side of the pond, the MAGA cult, cousin to the Make Britain Great Again cult, is also facing an uncertain future. Despite two years of daily scandals and the crude and unceasing demolition of standards of civility, diplomacy, credibility and integrity developed over two and a half centuries of US government*, the presidency of Donald Trump has sailed along without a peep of protest from the Republican-controlled Congress, with the exception of a few members pushed into early retirement by shame or dismal reelection prospects.

* Not to paint too rosy a picture but there were standards, no matter how imperfect adherence to them may have sometimes been.

After stating that he would drain the swamp, Trump sought and found his cabinet in the sewer. The subsequent high turn-over rate of his appointees resulted from some of them being even too sleazy for Trump to abide, while others were fired for not being sleazy enough. The new teflon president has slithered through all this on the strength of a rising stock market, (until September 2018) and vast kick-backs to the oligarchs who backed him (under the guise of tax reform).

Trump may have out-Foxed himself. While he simply lied outright in campaign promises regarding health care, social security, deficits and taking care of the troops, he also made statements about building a wall on the Mexican border so racist and so irrational that they clouded the essentially reasonable idea that a country should have secure borders. In so doing, he spawned a whole generation of believers in no borders at all. No sovereignty, just universal love.

He went on to say “I don’t see why we have to be enemies with Russia”. A quarter of a century after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the idea of better relations with the inheritors of the world’s second largest nuclear arsenal seemed less irrational than most of Trump’s other tweets. Little did anyone realize that his quest for better relations was driven not by a need for national security but by the chance to build a Trump Tower in central Moscow.

Trump is now reviled across the bi-partisan Neo-con coalition for his Russian dealings. His support for a high visibility murderer and dismemberer has inspired queasiness in all but the deadest of souls. Recently he has fired all “the adults in the room”, i.e. the generals he had appointed to civilian posts. Then he announced a withdrawal of troops from Syria and Afghanistan, undermining the absolute control of the government by the Military Industrial Complex. Ironically, the one positive thing he’s done in two years may be the thing that leads to his removal from office.

With apparent impunity, Trump can abuse women, pay them hush money, insult all identifiable minorities, tear up treaties, violate international law and act like the typical US kid drugged up for attention deficit disorder, but in derailing the military gravy train, he may have crossed a red line that neither Wall Street, the Pentagon, nor AIPAC will tolerate. Almost as quickly as I started to write this piece, Mr. Bolton, the new Director of Homeland Security, stepped in to overrule the President, possibly saving the President his job for the moment.

The troops were due to repatriated in one month; the final Mueller Report should be out sometime in the first quarter, and March 29th is the last day to drink or reject the Brexit Kool-aid. How will the cults fare? Your guess is as good as ours but it looks like an interesting time ahead. Happy New Year!