Reaching the rust belt

Max, November 26, 2016 


They didn’t want affordable college and “jobs of the future”. They want a theme park of white male privilege and 1940s technologies.

I just snipped the above from a random comment thread. It may be a little presumptuous and somewhat caustic, but it hints at the core problem that led to the recent tragedy of electing a dangerous demagogue to run the country. I’ve been pondering this problem for the past couple of weeks now, and wondering what can possibly change this mentality and begin to solve the problem. My concern is that we may be on the forefront of a huge paradigm shift that could result in more similar tragedies before we come out on the other side in a more hopeful future (see the preceding post for context).

I’m not so sure that the bulk of Trump voters are consciously desiring a theme park of white male privilege and I bet many of them really do appreciate smart phones and big screen TVs among other benefits of modern technology. What they are conscious of, however, is diminishing status as their identities as being valued members of society, the noble working class creating cars, extracting valued resources from the ground, etc., is vanishing before their eyes, and with it their priveged economic standing. The recent immigrants and lower classes are gaining on them and in some cases passing them by and they don’t see any hint of a reversion to the norm. That’s because there’s a new norm coming and they are not being educated about it and how it can ultimately benefit them and their children to embrace it.

In the immediate aftermath, I was mostly just angry and following the impulse to blame them for the catastrophe without searching for reasons. “Fuck Trump voters” was a pretty good summary of the way I felt about it for a while. It seemed shocking that anyone could be so ignorant as to vote for the sociopath without sharing his core racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, or at least accepting it as the price for a chance at ending the pattern of societal irrelevance they were facing. Now I look at it more through the lens of low information voters being misled by a media funded by an avaricious oligarchy with a strong vested interest in electing the candidate who could be counted on to defend their ability to stand on top of the disgruntled masses duping them with false promises of better times to come. It seems the real challenge is how to get a more accurate message to these people informing them of a real route to future prosperity through the benefits of modern technology and finding some role they can play in making it happen.

Maybe the American ideal of freedom and decentralized power is the key. Clean power technologies are much more capable of being decentralized, but they are still too expensive for the middle class to reap the benefits. For now, a reasonably well-off person can start building a self-reliant lifestyle with solar panels and electric transport, but rural folks in the heartland can’t see that happening in their lifetimes. The truth is that it is coming sooner than they think but no one is telling them that. The Republicans are selling an impossible dream of prospering through the old paradigm. How can we sell a much more achievable prosperity in the new? It seems that should be an easier task as time goes by, but what can be done to accelerate that transition? We need a new vision for the American heartland, showing the beleaguered middle class how cool it’s going to be for them in a very short time, if they will just throw off the hopeless desire to return to the ways of old.


  1. Max wrote,

    BTW – I googled images for “clean power utopia” to find something for the header of this post and results were distressingly sparse. Futuristic imagery is usually urban, rarely giving any sense that rural folks will have any share in it. I think that’s part of the problem.

    Comment on November 26, 2016 @ 7:07 pm

  2. Joel wrote,

    The Atlantic article linked above was good, but still stuck on the “where will the jobs come from?” narrative. Nobody seems to get it that the future won’t have “jobs” as we know it today.

    Comment on November 26, 2016 @ 7:31 pm

  3. Joel wrote,

    Ah… here’s somebody who gets it:

    Comment on November 26, 2016 @ 7:40 pm

  4. Joel wrote,

    Works for me.

    Comment on November 26, 2016 @ 7:50 pm

  5. Joel wrote,

    Twitter can be awesome. A guy named Scott Santens started following me after the End of Jobs post, and his feed is a gold mine of fresh thinking on Universal Basic Income, the end of jobs as we know them (and why that’s a good thing), etc. Here’s an example:

    Comment on November 26, 2016 @ 7:56 pm

  6. Joel wrote,

    another very good piece:

    A lot of people are talking about this!

    Comment on November 26, 2016 @ 8:03 pm

  7. Joel wrote,

    One more. This gif is spell-binding (and demonstrates an idea quite powerfully):

    Comment on November 26, 2016 @ 8:15 pm

  8. Joel wrote,

    If you read nothing else, at least read the link from #5:

    Best case I’ve heard yet for UBI.

    Comment on November 26, 2016 @ 9:17 pm

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