I've been swimming in the matrix for the past eighteen months or so - no, that's not true. I've been swimming in the matrix since November 9, 2016.
When the economy crashed and nobody could quite explain in simple terms what a CDO or tranche was, I set out to understand. I now subscribe to a dozen financial newsletters, three of them paid, and have read maybe 30 books on macroeconomics. I have an opinion on who wrote the best book on the Great Depression.
When the government crashed and nobody could quite explain in simple terms what Rural America wanted, I set out to understand. I'm not quite there yet but I know a few things: the problem is bigger, the problem is more intractable, and the solution is more elusive.
I didn't link to this article because its tone was snarky, apocalyptic and full of bad analogies but I keep coming back to it. Susan McWilliams argues that Rural America is the Hell's Angels - fucked from the get-go and motivated by nihilistic hatred. I think that's an oversimplification, but I think it's one view through the panopticon of modern American poverty.
American democracy was not designed for equality. It was designed for the appearance of equality, for the opportunity for equality but at a structural level, advantage goes to the landowners. And big landowners have always had an advantage over small landowners.
The last time we had inequality this bad, you could still lynch black people. You could steal farms from the Japanese by interning them in camps. You could banish Mexicans by the busload for growing hemp. It sucked to be poor and white but not nearly as much as it sucked to be black or hispanic or asian. The liberals, however, have led a 70-year crusade to make it suck less to be black or hispanic or asian. The end result has been poor white people experiencing a net decline in socioeconomic status. Which is not to say things are better for black people - but they are less worse. Meanwhile, things are more worse for poor white people.
And they're not going to get better. The entire weight of politics and economics is against them. From hospital bills to payday loans to crumbling education to rising rents, things are easier now for the rich and harder now for the poor and the rich are richer and the poor are poorer.
And it's better in the cities, but everybody knows it's better in the cities. And you talk about your acre of paradise but you're in Kentucky. I may live (during the summer) in a Mexican ex-pat shithole but I'm 45 minutes by metro to GOOGLE. I could be at Snapchat in an hour. And that's why in my neighborhood a 2br 1ba with bars on the windows is $850k. Why is the homeless rate so high on the west coast? Because that's where the jobs are, duh.
So much of American politics has become angry dead-ender nihilism. The problem is, the only way it's going to get any better is if we can make things better for the poor against their goddamn will like when the Obi-Wan dude gets all "I cast you out!" on the warty white "you have no power here" dude in Lord of the Rings.
And that's not going to happen any time soon.
To get a little Kabbala on it, Strauss and Howe argued that things had to really go to shit between 2004 and 2030 in order for their whole "saeculum" theory of history to play out. Steve Bannon's whole schtick was to accelerate the catastrophe.
I think if you're in a bad place it's going to get extraordinarily worse. And I think if you're rich and Republican you know your margins go up the poorer poor people are. I mean, shit - make abortion illegal and that whole "we've only got two workers per retiree" problem solves itself, right?