Historians: What Were We Thinking?

When historians look back and study humanity in the early twenty-first century they will be asking a series of questions.  One could be about Covid-19:  why did the United States ambivalently allow so many people to die of Covid-19?  We did not stop Covid-19 in spite of all the following:  1)  we quickly learned how it spreads and its basic pathophysiology;  2) we had recently dealt with warning signs of a coming pandemic by identifying SARS and MERS, two similar coronaviruses, merely a decade before; 3) we were aware of a coming pandemic a full two months before it arrived on our shores and we did virtually nothing during this period; 4)  even now we have not fully embraced the simplest of measures such as national mandatory mask wearing initiatives and universal coordinated lockdowns .  Hundreds of thousands have died already and perhaps millions of Americans could die, yet to use President Trump’s words, “It is what it is.”  

Another question could be about climate change and why in the year 2020 we have done little to slow its progress.  Our atmospheric carbon dioxide is now 414 ppm, is the highest in over 800,000 years, and the highest in all human history. Our carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise as does our atmospheric temperature.  We are now 1°C above the 1951-1980 average.   We elected a President who still ignores its existence and has purposely limited our exploration for solutions.  

Perhaps the most critical question pertains to Donald Trump.  Nearly every newspaper editor warned us of his volatility, ignorance, racism, narcissism, immorality and lack of respect for our country.  According to Politico, only six newspapers, large and small, in the entire country endorsed Donald Trump in the 2016 election.  Ninety-eight percent of the daily newspaper editors of the one-hundred largest newspapers in the United States felt Donald Trump should not be elected President.  Just two, Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Florida endorsed him.   In addition, 370 top economists, 50 top GOP security officials, and 75 senior diplomats all signed letters opposing Donald Trump’s presidential bid. 

Adolf Hitler’s rise and fall, which was filled with brutal corruption and propagandistic lies, started with the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, then the Reichstag Fire in 1933, then the takeover of all of Europe, and then ended disastrously for all of humanity in 1945.  It took the world 22 years to end his Hell.  We must never forget the harm he did to the world and how others like them, if given the power and opportunity, are capable of such gross malfeasance.   Much like the democide in human history which killed off more than 80 million people in the 1940s WWII, we ask about our predicament today:  why did we not stop Donald Trump, the Covid-19 virus, and climate change?

 There were plenty of reasons to be seriously skeptical about Donald Trump as a nominee for President in 2016.  1) He would not divulge his tax returns.   2) He had never held public office.   3) He made bizarre, boastful statements about his potential power and capabilities including,   “I alone can fix it” (speech 2016); “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters” (speech January 2016); “Grab em by the pussy” (an access Hollywood tape that surfaced in October 2016 from a 2005 encounter with a reporter in which Trump discusses how to treat women);  “I hate some of these people [reporters]….I would never kill them, though” (speech December 2015).  4) He opposed the scientific community on many issues that were widely accepted already as fact—climate change in particular.  5) He supported conspiratorial theories (the deep state; Obama birther; the election is rigged; Mexicans and refugees are murderers, rapists, and terrorists) that had no factual basis and was asked to support his comments but could not.   6) He was known to be extremely ignorant about geopolitical events.  7) He would use petty arguments and phrases about other highly respected politicians (on John McCain: “I like people who weren’t captured”  July 2015),  about families of veterans’ killed in action (he spoke about Humayan Khan’s family as “Mr. Khan [Humayan’s father]…has no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution…” July 2016), the handicapped reporter who wrote an article opposing him (visibly mocking Serge Kovaleski, a reportor with a congenital movement disorder in November 2015),  and he even complained about the bias of a Federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel because the judge is of Mexican descent (June 3, 2016).  8) When delivering speeches he was extremely disorganized and during the debates with Hillary Clinton he was embarrassingly unprepared.  9) He was known to lie about his financial background (Campaign for Accountability watchdog group filed a complaint in August 16, 2016 against Trump for “vastly overstating” financial holdings).  10) Somehow portions of Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican Convention were lifted from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech. 11) Perhaps the most disturbing of all was Mr. Trump’s call for Russia to find Hilary Clinton’s emails, “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing…” (July 27, 2016).

Yet, we elected him.  One school of thought has maintained that President Trump was helped by the Russians through their smear campaign of Hillary Clinton. This, however, doesn’t totally explain his success as he became the nominee of a major political party prior to known Russian help. Another school of thought would conclude that President Trump obtained much name recognition and was promoted with his own reality show well before this.  People were known to flock to him, because they were enamored with his success and alleged dealmaking that would prove helpful as President.  Finally, there were those who argued he had resources unlike anyone else that allowed him major fundraising advantages.  All are to some extent valid reasons for his successful 2016 campaign. 

With the dawning of what I call The Supercivilization, Trump’s rise and hopefully his fall should not come as a shock to historians.  The sine qua non of the twenty-first century is social unpredictability and instability.  The paradox of individual power, as I have pointed out in my book The Supercivilization:  Surivival in the Era of Human Versus Human, asserts that anyone can potentially, immediately, and efficiently affect the lives of all seven billion people, given the right circumstances.  Unfortunately, George Floyd became a household name throughout the entire world after a video showed him being tortured by and eventually dying in the custody of police.  Through his death, George Floyd very well could change the course of all of humanity in the years to come.

In order to avoid the malevolent takeover by demagogues of our Supercivilization, we need to  1) structure our Supercivilization in a way that encourages more transparency and accountability of our leaders , 2) reduce the inequality that mitigates support by the poorest and promotes the thoughts of the wealthiest who favor solutions that benefit only them,  3) limit political contributions to individuals only and not allow corporate contributions to political parties,  4) limit the ability of news media to promote certain candidates (Fox News equals Donald Trump) that promote disinformation,  5) most importantly spend more time educating and persuading individuals, throughout our primary and secondary schools and other influential institutions, about the need to maintain a strong, legitimate government as an unbiased referee for the promotion and distribution of goods and services. Trump is merely a canary in the coal mine and is not the problem; our decline is due to our inability to create institutions, primarily a single nation-state with consistent rules of conduct and values, to deal with the profound hyperdynamism and interconnectedness of The Supercivilization.

 Major changes to our political institutions will need to take place in order to avoid more demagoguery.  I have spelled those out in the Mission Statement for Humanity and in meticulous detail in my work The Supercivilization:  Survival in the Era of Human Versus Human.  We all need to be informed and realize that we need to discriminate between a used car salesman selling us a 1974 Ford Pinto and a potential leader of the free world looking out for our interests.  Propaganda does matter; Trump knew that in 2016, and that is why he won the election.  But character does matter the most for the efficient running of our country, and values that promote cooperation, not competition are critical.  Of the two people who changed our lives in 2020, George Floyd or Donald Trump, I would take Floyd over Trump in a heartbeat as the better of the two men who profoundly affected our lives this year.  We no longer value the nation-state as we once did in the twentieth century.  Political parties wield more influence in our minds than the importance of our country and its rule of law.  And it is not just political parties that wield more influence than the nation-state; family, corporate, class, and spiritual interests clearly wield more influence as well.   Why?  The nation-state that was promoted and perfected in the twentieth century is now functionally obsolete.