Living In A Post-Truth Society

I’ve been in New York for five days. I’m going to do two blogs on this, the next one will have more of the people I’ve been meeting (the people are what make it for me in NY, for so many reasons) however, I can’t ignore the large orange child in the room either. The first thing that struck me when I drove into NY was how it reminded me in some way of Gotham City, presided over by crooks, villains and heroes. There is a cartoonish quality to the spectacle of Trump. It is a spectacle with a deadly reality. Trump is dangerous, as are the ideologies that saw him elected and that are widespread. We have a man unfit to serve and he has been elected as the President of the United States of America. Whilst fear is everywhere, also, there is defiance, there is debate, courage and dignity.

On Thursday I got a text from a friend to say an accident had happened in Times Square and to ask if I was okay. A 26 year-old, high on PCP, had driven his car into pedestrians on the street. Two people died and a further 22 were injured. The car kept going for several blocks. He later told officers he just wanted to kill people. It’s something that has been said by other people who have committed similar types of crimes over the last few years. Sometimes these acts of murder against strangers, are attached to an ideology or terrorism but often it is someone who has a history of violence, domestic or otherwise and who has got to the point of being psychopathic. I was in Woodstock that day, I’d taken the train from Grand Central Station and when I found out, I cried, because I’m a human, a poet and it’s hideous to know that anyone should die in that way, for no good reason.

It feels that people are more on the edge than they have been for decades. I think politics, poverty, education and inequality — all mixed with governments presided over by people who appear to have only the vaguest links to reality, has created a situation that is dangerously unsustainable.

The feeling and thoughts about safety and fear seem to be everywhere I look. I drove passed the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue late at night. Melania Trump still lives there with her son. On approach the road narrows, traffic cannot move, there are barricades, armed police — the air becomes frenetic with frustration, heat and a negative, strange energy. I can’t imagine living that way. I was told that in Trump Tower all residents have had any firearms removed, so have the residents in surrounding buildings and across the street. 500’000 people have signed a petition demanding the First Lady move to the White House because it is costing up to $146,000 of tax payers money to cover her security every day. Meanwhile, she has no desire to move to The White House or be in Washington or we all assume, anywhere near her husband. Apparently Bruce Willis lived in the building at one point, members of the Saudi Royal family stay there when they are in town and well known, corrupt, Russian officials. The neighbours are fed up of having to show ID and get frisked every time they pop out for a pint of milk.

I went to the Trump Building and found everything was gold. The elevator was gold. All possible furnishings that could be done in gold, were done in gold. I have never seen so much gold in one space. The emperor likes shiny things.

It will take me weeks here to fathom out the whys and hows of this character but like many countries it seems a hustler, a business person, a crook, someone with little to no concern for others, a narcissist, a risk taker, a fundamentalist — has the kind of skill set that puts them in charge of countries. Not everywhere, but look around the planet, there’s a fair few of them in charge.

Anyway.

I’ve learned that the schooling system here depends upon the taxes paid by people in the local area, so if you live in an area where people cannot afford to pay much tax then there will be very little money to invest in those local schools. There is absolutely no equality in that, it is sad and it is shocking. All children deserve the same quality of education. They all deserve the same quality of nutrition and some stability in where they live. Make that change first and so many good things would follow.

People feel sick when they talk about Trump, they are visibly distressed, they are utilising tactics to not let this dominate their life anymore than any of us can when he’s gas lighting the entire planet and has more power than any one person ever should.

The people who voted Trump in do not feel that way, although many of them are changing their mind plenty others have not. Those kind of Republicans are apparently raised to love their country more than they love their families. They think this man will restore the USA to some idea of American identity that has foundations in misogyny, racism, greed, capitalism, industry, awfulness and stupidity. Stephen Hawking recently said the greatest threat to mankind is stupidity, followed by climate change. I do not think he was wrong.

There are so many things I can repeat about Trump but you have all seen them countless times before, the media is saturated in him, it has become a part of the spectacle itself.

More and more Republican Senators are refusing to back Trump as President, although most have not yet publicly defected. Come has agreed to testify against Trump in court after being spectacularly fired as Director of the FBI. Lots of FBI members have photos of Comey on their social media showing their support and solidarity. A former director of the CIA released a statement saying Trump was unfit to serve. Countless other powerful professionals have done the same. There have been extraordinary protests across America, inventive, inspiring. The women’s march had over a million women marching to show their disapproval of his appointment as President and to show they would not be silenced. Other protests have included a group of Statue of Liberty’s with hands over their eyes. Also a room of women dressed like characters in the Handmaid’s Tale when Trump and others signed a bill to further reduce women’s rights over their own bodies, for termination or healthcare.

On the other side there are marches by Trump supporters, one most recently where they marched in with torches burning in something that could only be an intentional and provocative statement regards race and ideas of white supremacy. I am learning more about racism and thinking about white privilege everyday. The divide here between black, white, Asian, Latino communities reminds me of the class divide at home and it also reminds me of the years I lived in Peckham, in South East London. I didn’t leave all that long ago but would often have to lie to a taxi driver to get back there late at night. In the UK people often pretend there is not a huge issue with racism or class or poverty. That’s really not working out anymore. It has to change.

Under the new President we have Mike Pence, the Vice President believes that Darwin’s theory of evolution is not true. He believes that the world is only 6000 years old.  There is a Liberty University here that teaches students that God created the world in seven days and his flood was this historical event, that they saved the animals two by two. Liberty University had a model of Noah’s ark as a scale model next to a Boeing 747 and the US space shuttle, explaining how the animals fit in. They also surmised that there was a strong possibility horses, zebras and donkeys were descendants of just one pair of horses that were on Noah’s Ark, and they also argued that the discovery of the coelacanth “fossil-fish” had blown a hole in evolutionary theory. They were also teaching that sharks did not – as science tells us – evolve 400 million years ago, but they too were only designed 6,000 years ago. Liberty apparently declared that: “Sharks are not primitive remnants of pre-history, but are acutely fine-tuned organisms that defy Darwinian evolution.” According to a 2012 Gallup Poll 46 per cent of Americans have a creationist view of the world in which God created humans in their present form in the last 10,000 years. Republican Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor, stated via Twitter “I think God created the Earth,” adding “I think science and my faith aren’t incompatible.”

This is fundamentalist religion.

I cannot get my head around it but I better try because the fundamentalists have the power and the liberals are something they want to hunt out and get rid of, liberal views, climate warriors, human rights, social equality and even science is scorned and looked down upon by many of those voters, they hate liberals, they think we are the ones who are stupid.

On March 26, 2015, Pence signed Indiana Senate Bill 101, also known as the Indiana “religious objections” bill (Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA), into law. The law’s signing was met with criticism by groups who felt the law was worded in a way that would permit discrimination against anyone in the LGBT community. According to a FiveThirtyEight rating of candidates’ ideology, Pence is widely written about as the most conservative vice-presidential candidate in the last forty years.

I speak to lots of Americans who tell me that the hard right, conservative, Trump supporters — are fundamentalist Republicans, that we live in a post-truth society, that those voters do not believe in climate change, they think we are all going to die in a biblically predicted disaster, they absolutely and utterly loathe liberals and always will, and they have been raised to love their country, pledge allegiance to their country and serve their country as the utmost priority, even before their families.

It sounds like a cult to me.

I see flags being waved as trucks drive down the street. I started out this week on Ellis Island and I have been thinking a lot about ideology and how much it formulates peoples beliefs about life on earth. I am not against religion per se but I grow less tolerant of it every year and I am absolutely against the interpreters. I am against the use of a belief system to control people and to create structures by which people lose their own sense of accountability, autonomy or personal responsibility.

A friend said they (fundamentalist Christians and most Republicans come into that bracket) don’t care what happens on this planet because they believe heaven is their true home.

Ideology across the world, in Europe, in the UK, in the USA is reaching peak division. It is unsustainable, impractical and downright dangerous to support the rise of a far right that is based upon archaic principles, outright madness and at times, downright evil. I don’t say that lightly but I know on which side of the fence I stand. I wish there was something better to say about this but at the moment there isn’t. The only light for me is that these conversations have had to go incredibly public. Ideologies going to war is not unusual to the human race, change occurs in times of great conflict and extraordinary people are fighting for a better future every day. I realised over the last year that I can no longer be politically silent or feel that my work is the place to hold my political beliefs and backbone. If I am silent then I am complicit. We can no longer afford to be complicit. Sometimes it becomes apparent that people are living through a period of great historical change and this is one of them.

In America each day Trump loses support amongst his own party and voters. Talk of impeachment is never far away. France is sent beloved gratitude for not voting in Le Pen. The UK sits on the brink of its own potentially disastrous election and people want change! They want something better, than a ruling elite so out of touch with reality that only people who really suffer are — everybody else, they are us, they are all the communities that are not them, they are most especially those of any supposed minority or disadvantage. We are all seeing the last stand of the empire. The tiny per cent who have the worlds wealth, the inequality across the globe, religious fundamentalism, the absolving of personal accountability or responsibility, one person believing they are more superior than another, entitlement — it can’t continue this way, capitalism is failing, ideological structures are showing huge, cavernous cracks and they are all impacting on society and the planet in unforgivable ways.

I promise that my other blogs on the road may not be as sombre as this one but our political climate has never felt more dangerous in my lifetime — it is time for change and people are working on it, out there, at home, we need to keep reaching out to each other along the way.

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