When I was a college freshman, and that’s going way back, WWU students elected a pig, yes, an oinker, as homecoming royalty. It was the 1960s. We were in the midst of a youth-led cultural revolution fueled by, among other things, Vietnam war protests, by the seeming blindness of “the establishment” to what we feared we were heading into on a number of fronts.
That was a “blow it up” moment; in that instance, blowing up the old beauty-popularity contests traditionally offered to us young people. At first glance, it might seem to provide a parallel with the Trump and Sanders followers’ passions for upheaval.
But along the way, in the decades since in 1960s, cultural currents in the U. S. have reflected a complacency that has morphed into a blindness of its own, a blindness that believes that all of the good stuff of our society and country is safe from change, like it stands on its own steel and concrete foundation, and all we have to do is demand, from whichever leaders happen to be in office, selected revolutionary leaps forward. When we are not making demands, are we even voting, let alone organizing for change? I fear we have treated our citizenship as an antiquated sentiment, and have settled instead for being consumers and entertainment junkies.
Did the blow-it-up zeitgeist begin in the business world? We’ve all seen the new thing in business, “disruptive” change. If all the basics are assumed safe, including basic transaction trust, we can applaud those who can selectively take a company or product and blow it up. Or start a new thing, like bitcoins, and ride on our shared trust. It’s just the way the game is played now. Business as a game, right?
Who knew that a game approach to everything, business and life, would one day bite us? Evidently it is starting to. In a New York Times Saturday story, (page A11) one Bernie supporter was very insightful. He’s in the camp of “Bernie, Or else blow up the Democratic Party.” Victor Vizcarra of Los Angeles, is 48, is old enough to have some perspective. Yet he plans to vote for Trump if Bernie doesn’t get the nomination, not because he agrees with Trump’s positions, but like a gambling man, and having watched “The Apprentice,” he feels a Trump presidency would be more exciting, a Clinton presidency more “boring.”
Now here’s where his insight really comes in. Mr. Vizcarra says, “A dark side of me want to see what happens if Trump is in. There is going to be some kind of change, and even it it’s like a Nazi-type change, people are so drama-filled. They want to see stuff like that happen. It’s like reality TV. You don’t want to just see everybody to be happy with each other. You want to see someone fighting somebody.”
Tremendous insight. He’s not particularly proud of his insight. He’s not driven by desire to improve Flint’s water, or halt the ocean’s rise, nor does he even appear passionate about Bernie’s signature issue, reversing giant corporate power and rising economic inequality. But he clearly assumes that it’s all a show we can enjoy. That it doesn’t matter beyond the show. That, for instance, presidential appointees to the Supreme court don’t matter.
How many are like him, either openly, or fooling themselves that they have no role as citizens to set right what goes wrong in our messy society?—beyond blowing something up, that is. In a sense, he is right. If we sit back as consumers to a great big show, we’ll get drama, alright. But why would we want to gamble that the upheavel will be confined safely to our TVs and little back-lit screens? Why would we want to assume that the consumer will control the outcome, rather than the already powerful?