Everything Will Change; Everything Has Changed

At the end of that one-minute video clip from The Patriot, about the American war of independence, British commander General Cornwallis — in shock and grief — prepares to surrender and mutters: “Everything will change; everything has changed.” It nicely illustrates that when ideologies fall, as they eventually do, they fall hard. Their leaders and followers are invariably horrified and fearful of the consequences.

The history of human affairs is littered with religious and secular doctrines like the Divine right of kings, the Mandate of Heaven, Fascism, various forms of Religious nationalism, Theocracy, World communism, numerous forms of Democratic socialism, and a number of other “isms” in Wikipedia’s List of political ideologies.

Sometimes dogma dies slowly, the result of gradual changes in society. A splendid modern example can be seen as a result of Age of Enlightenment, which advocates reason over authority, and has brought us concepts like personal liberty, limited government, free enterprise, and science. While societies based on these things flourish, the practitioners of failing systems wail and moan, as they struggle to maintain their ancient power and privilege. We often amuse ourselves at the rants of creationist preachers, as they complain about their loss of influence and prestige, and we laugh at their predictions that disasters will inevitably follow their decline.

To a limited extent, we are seeing that behavior today as a result of the recent Presidential election in the US. One party, which represents, practices, and benefits from a particular form of political and economic dogma, senses that its leadership — politicians, academics, journalists, and others — are losing their grip on power. They predict cataclysmic consequences — social, economic, environmental, and even military.

There would be such consequences if the currently prevailing ideology, inherent in the Donald Trump election, were indeed theocratic and authoritarian. But we don’t think it is. It will certainly be far from perfect — but so is everything else — and in our humble opinion, we think the alternative would have been worse.

We may be wrong, of course, and we fully expect to be criticized for this post as we have for others, like Beware of All Tyrannical Dogma, and before that The Folly of Economic Creationism. But in the true spirit of science, we shall wait to see if the losing party’s predictions validate their hypothesis.

Okay, dear reader. Go ahead and disagree. Your Curmudgeon is accustomed to criticism. But keep it clean.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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37 responses to “Everything Will Change; Everything Has Changed

  1. Proctor S. Burress

    Nothing to correct you on. Wish we knew what is going on…with the cosmos. One sure thing…Imagination is the upper limit…the Human Imagination. Priestcraft has tried to convince us otherwise. Still, the Human Imagination is the upper limit…for the real or what may become real and the unreal! Thus far, with or without what you call the Age of Enlightenment most of us split the difference between faith in the unreal and the knowable. This is our punishment for easting the forbidden fruit!

  2. In science, indeed in any rational pursuit, change can come about only when there is a better alternative offered.
    In politics, on the other hand, the forces of change need not offer an alternative in order to prevail. The participants in this forum are familiar with anti-evolutionism not having an alternative explanation for the variety of life. They are offering a political negative advertising campaign, that there is something wrong with evolutionary biology, and they see no need to offer a positive, substantive alternative. Everyone agrees that the absolute monarchies were due for a change, but what were the alternatives planned to follow on the regicides of Charles I, Louis XVI, Nicholas II?

  3. Lewis Thomason

    Even as a very liberal Democrat I totally agree with you.

  4. birdmanrtb@aol.com

    Politics? In the words of Richard Blaine, “I am a drunk!” to which Cpt Renault replies, “That makes him a citizen of the world!”

  5. What we are seeing is the emergence into the sunlight of a great divide that’s been cooking for a while between the rich and educated, and the poor and willfully ignorant.

    Take the voters in Clay County, Ky. who have benefited by the KYNECT health insurance exchange and Obamacare. All sorts of maladies are being treated, now, from high blood pressure to diabetes to eye and dental care. Yet the county voted 76% for Bevin who ran on a platform of dismantling KYNECT and Obamacare, and 90% for Trump who advocated the same thing. The voters will lose benefits, return to being sick and apparently they don’t care. They’ll be told their lives are better and they will believe it.

    Meanwhile, Trump and his cronies will loot the treasury in broad daylight and nobody will say “boo.” Trump simply doesn’t care about anything other than himself, but not caring is not illegal. Having no shame is not illegal. Not following tradition is not illegal. So long as he doesn’t commit a crime he will continue to run his companies from the White House, solicit favors from foreign governments, suck money out of his foundations, enrich his family and to hell with the rest of us. Republicans are already lining up at the pork barrel tough to slurp us much as they can while the getting’s good.

    Hey, where’s my pork?

  6. birdmanrtb says:

    In the words of Richard Blaine, “I am a drunk!” to which Cpt Renault replies, “That makes him a citizen of the world!”

    Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, you walk into mine.

  7. What dobill said. And from what we’ve seen so far, the people he’s picked, starting with Pence, aren’t much better. (With the possible exception of Nikki Haley.)

  8. docbill1351 said

    So long as he doesn’t commit a crime he will continue to run his companies from the White House, solicit favors from foreign governments, suck money out of his foundations, enrich his family and to hell with the rest of us.

    I am not a USAian so I may be missing something, but as I understand it even if he does commit crimes, only the Republican-controlled government can do anything about it, which is about as likely as he being a pillar of rectitude.

  9. @Bwbach: Perhaps. But if the crime is venal enough, blatant enough, and Trump is caught dead to rights, the Republican-controlled House would have to impeach for political survival, and for the same reason the Senate would convict.

    Let’s say, for instance, that Trump, Inc. gets an outrageous sweetheart contract from the Russians and it comes to light. He’s already said he will not divest, but instead just put his kids in charge of running the country. No one’s going to be fooled by that. He’s still very much in charge.

  10. I should add that many of the Republicans in the House would rather see Pence as president than Trump. Before he was elected as Governor of Indiana, Pence was in Congress himself. They would jump at the chance.

  11. …he will continue to run his companies from the White House, solicit favors from foreign governments, suck money out of his foundations, enrich his family and to hell with the rest of us.

    Change the gender around and swap “State Department” for “White House” and you are describing Hillary perfectly.

  12. Coyote notes

    Change the gender around and swap “State Department” for “White House” and you are describing Hillary perfectly.

    Indeed.

    Relative to Europe and much of the rest of the world, the width of the political spectrum between your two mainstream parties is remarkably narrow. The differences between the right wing of the Republican party and the left wing of the Democrat party are smaller than the internal factions with the British Conservative party alone.

    Which is why, IMHO, your public political discourse is almost entirely bereft of substance and your elections are indistinguishable from reality TV competitions based on personalities. Eight years ago the vote went for “Hope and Change”, and this time around it went for “Make America Great Again.” Both are vacuous slogans offered in place of any meaningful examination or analysis of genuine policy issues.

    And in the absence of political substance, what’s left for a political party’s campaign beyond invective, smearing, and childish tu quoques? This isn’t a new feature of American elections, though 2016 does appear to have plumbed new depths of innane foolishness.

  13. Our Curmudgeon acknowledges that the values of the Englightenment would be under threat

    if the currently prevailing ideology, inherent in the Donald Trump election, were indeed theocratic and authoritarian. But we don’t think it is

    As you go on to say, for now we can only wait and see.

    But there is, I think, a critical watchpoint. One must distinguish between the performance of Trump and his administration, which is one thing, and the impact of the reactionary populism he encouraged during his campaign. For the former, I hope for the best: Presidents are not potentates, the American Constitution is nothing if not robust, and the President-elect appears to be acknowledging that some of his shot-from-the-hip proposals are impracticable and/or unconstitutional bits of nonsense which he is now trying to quietly drop.

    But mindless populism may not be so easy to put back into the bottle. At the moment, the braying mob over at, say, Free Republic, are partying like no tomorrow–but in the expectation that the way is clear for a regime that will indeed be authoritarian and–if not full monty theocratic, then at least far friendlier to the religious right than it should be. Trump has been playing with fire here, and it is not only the USA that may get burned thereby…

  14. At the risk of overposting here, may I just note that, on the American political spectrum, Margaret Thatcher would have been trashed by a significant number of Trump voters as a rabid lefty ‘socialist.’

  15. What is Trump’s position on socialism?

  16. Megalonyx: “At the moment, the braying mob over at, say, Free Republic, are partying like no tomorrow–but in the expectation that the way is clear for a regime that will indeed be authoritarian and–if not full monty theocratic, then at least far friendlier to the religious right than it should be.”

    Um, do you have any specific threads or posts over there that you can point to as evidence for this? The after-election analyses that I’ve seen are showing the same thing that many pre-election analyses suggested: The large majority of Trump’s voters were neither authoritarian nor theocratic. Rather, they were largely drawn from two groups of people: small-government conservatives, who hate the authoritarian tendencies of the current administration; and rural working-class people, who have been left behind by the policies of the last eight years, are mired in the worst kind of economic and social depression and despair, and simply wanted somebody to notice them and do something to solve the problems they face – unemployment, drug addiction, lack of opportunity. A look at a county-by-county map of the election results, such as can be found at https://www.washingtonpost.com/2016-election-results/us-presidential-race/?tid=a_inl, is highly informative: basically, Clinton carried the big cities and high-minority areas, and Trump won everywhere else.

    What kind of President will Trump be? I don’t know; he’s sending extremely mixed signals with his public statements and his appointments since the election. I’m quite sure that few people will win arguments with him about “the appearance of impropriety” and “unethical behavior” — like not divesting from his companies. But I’m also pretty sure that he’s made few enough friends on Capitol Hill that any blatant lawbreaking or breach of his oath of office will result in his impeachment. Unlike the Democrats, who have put party over country in order to defend their last two Oval Office occupants, enough Republicans still care about the law and the good of the country to impeach and remove Trump if he goes too far.

  17. “if he goes too far”.
    Given the unspecified nature of this expression your prediction is totally void.

  18. TomS asks

    What is Trump’s position on socialism?

    Missionary, but only when time permits. Otherwise, just a quick grope.

  19. eek! html tag thingie screw-up again 😦

    [*Voice from above*] In a world of political change, it’s good to see that you remain constant.

  20. I agree with SC here. The American democratic experiment is resilient .
    And free speech is the forum by which we form and shape our democracy.
    The Steve Bannons, Hillary Clintons and Donald Trumps will come and go.

  21. wolfwalker makes several good points:

    The large majority of Trump’s voters were neither authoritarian nor theocratic.

    I agree—at least about the ‘majority’ part (though I’m not sure about ‘large’)—and did not mean to suggest, in my previous post, that the sad denizens of ‘Free Republic’ were representative of any such majority. But they certainly represent a constituent part of his support in the election (and, given the closeness of the vote in a number of swing states, that was surely a significant constituent); and their expectations are most certainly both authoritarian (what else can you call their general applause for Trump’s pledge to go ‘far beyond’ waterboarding?) and tending toward theocracy insofar as they wish to see one particular religion given favourable standing by the state.

    As for other Trump supporters, wolfwalker highlights

    two groups of people: small-government conservatives, who hate the authoritarian tendencies of the current administration–

    –but will welcome new bureaucratic trade tariff regulations, increased domestic police surveillance, and massive government investment (a la FDR) in infrastructure projects, and direct federal intervention to prevent private companies investing overseas? Or how about the second group, the

    rural working-class people, who have been left behind by the policies of the last eight years, are mired in the worst kind of economic and social depression and despair, and simply wanted somebody to notice them and do something to solve the problems they face – unemployment, drug addiction, lack of opportunity.

    They have indeed been left behind—but by what or by whom? And only in the past 8 years? So in 2008 all these ills started under Obama—and so far-reaching was his malevolent reach, the rest of the world also suffered the greatest economic crisis since the 1930’s, absolutely nothing to do with that minor little kerfuffle involving the banks (too big to fail), or the evolution towards global capitalism following the end of the Cold War?

    In the post-WWII era, the USA was much given to lecturing the rest of the world (and occasionally intervening militarily when lectures did not suffice, e.g. Iran in 1953) on the blessings of free trade and open markets, and that worked fine as long as the west monopolised manufacturing while much of the rest of the world simply supplied raw materials. But now that freer international markets have indeed brought prosperity to places like India and China, we have to change the rules! America first! Believe me, I get that ok.

    The US, about 4% of the world’s population, still consumes some 25% of its natural resources; globally, the US, Europe and Japan constitute the wealthiest 16% of the planet’s population—and collectively consume 80% of natural resources. So the West isn’t exactly impoverished. But its absolutely true, real incomes have indeed been flat-lining since 2008 (in the UK, average earnings are projected to remain below 2008 levels until 2021 at the earliest), and the pain is real. But do we enable markets to fix the problem, or do we demand government to provide ‘employment, eliminate drug addiction, and guarantee opportunity’?

    All that would be an interesting discussion; and that was entirely lacking in your US election and in our Brexit referendum in the UK.

  22. For a more realistic analysis, you might try this piece by George Monbiot: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/25/13-crises-we-face-trump-soil-loss-global-collapse

    He admits in the comments that he missed a few.

  23. Mega asks:

    They have indeed been left behind—but by what or by whom?

    Not by Government policies, that’s for sure, and certainly not by the Obama administration. Obama’s effect on the riff and raff is minimal at best. Obama did have a large effect on ME, however, retired and living off a retirement portfolio of investments that tripled in value under Obama. Thanks, Obama!

    No, Joe Sixpack’s wages have been stagnant because the company he works for has kept it that way, while management and executive salaries have continued to rise at a rapid rate. The CEO at my old company rakes in over $30 million per year and has enjoyed 20-30% salary raises while during my tenure salary bumps were 1-3%. Furthermore, we oil company worker bees suffered when the price of oil dropped by wage freezes or layoffs, but the managers and executives were spared any pain.

    What else do the rust belters have to complain about? Gasoline is cheap, food is plentiful and inflation is low. Crime is down if you actually pay attention to the statistics. The rust belters should be howling at their state and local representatives who spend their time on “bathroom bills” and ways to defund Planned Parenthood, instead of fixing roads and streets, and providing affordable child care for working mothers (and fathers).

    Using the ballot box as anger management therapy will have a short term effect. Their lives will be no better under Trump, except that Trump will tell them how much better things are and they’ll believe it. It’s already happening. The Trump spokesgoblins are on TV today bragging about lower gasoline prices and a booming stock market since Trump got elected.

    And, in other news, Oceania is still at war with Eurasia.

  24. docbill1351, who bellyfeels Ingsoc, notes

    Joe Sixpack’s wages have been stagnant because the company he works for has kept it that way, while management and executive salaries have continued to rise at a rapid rate.

    Then Joe should have enrolled in Trump University to learn the secret entrepreneurial skills for a life of untold riches! Or at least, to get his hands on a portion of the $25m out-of-court settlement in the fraud case.

    And: still at war with Eurasia? Oceania has always has been at war with Eurasia…

  25. Don’t get me wrong, just don’t call me Shirley, but I was a happy clam working for big oil. Oil company wages in general are higher across the board of disciplines than in other industries. That said, there wasn’t a thing I could do within that framework to entitle me (love that word, entitle, it’s so me!) to disproportionately more pay. Raises were controlled by a complicated formula tied to two things: price of oil and safety. A loss-time accident was a Zero Multiplier that could wipe out any gains you had that year. Our safety record and safety consciousness, btw, was extremely high, probably number 1 or 2 in the industry. Still, executive wages shot up to 400x median wage, while in the 80’s it was 20x.

    Yeah, you’re right, always not still. [edited out]!! It’s the rat cage for me!

  26. Megalonyx asks, about the people who rejected the current American administration’s authoritarian acts: “–but will welcome new bureaucratic trade tariff regulations, increased domestic police surveillance, and massive government investment (a la FDR) in infrastructure projects, and direct federal intervention to prevent private companies investing overseas?”

    To quote our host: “BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”

    (Means ‘no’, in case you missed it 😉 )

    American small-government conservatives are exactly that: most of us want smaller government, full stop. What party is in charge doesn’t matter. We want fewer trade regulations (but we do generally favor fair trade as opposed to simply free trade), less police surveillance of private citizens, and less government spending on anything other than what the Constitution authorizes. In fact, in general what we want is a government that restricts its activities to those directly authorized by the Constitution. Hence the name “small-government” conservatives.

    Regarding the second group I listed, about which Mega asks: “They have indeed been left behind—but by what or by whom? And only in the past 8 years?”

    A valid question, The answer is no. They’ve been left behind by the government policies of the last 20-odd years, Republican and Democrat both — but it’s gotten much, much worse in the last eight years because the current regime’s policies favored big business more than ever, favored offshoring jobs more than ever, and particularly favored companies that poured money into the stock market and into executive salaries rather than into building their business. The economic “recovery” of the last eight years went almost entirely to big corporations, to big cities, and especially to Washington bureaucrats; the rural and small-urban regions of the country saw no economic recovery at all. Which is why they leaped aboard Trump’s bandwagon — he was the only candidate running who promised something other than business-as-usual.

    Docbill1351: no offense intended, but the sarcasm, contempt, and general lack of sympathy that you show for the rural people who have seen their lives collapse over the last couple of decades illustrates why they voted for Trump better than anything else I could say.

  27. American small-government conservatives are exactly that: most of us want smaller government, full stop.

    Then they’re exceptionally stupid, aren’t they? As you say to docbill, “no offense intended.”

  28. realthog concludes

    Then they’re exceptionally stupid, aren’t they?

    No; I have to disagree, I don’t think that’s the case at all, and your charge is a tad out of order.

    I’ve never encountered anyone who advocated ‘bigger’ government; does anyone really want government to be any ‘bigger’ than it needs to be? The problem IMHO is the absence of any meaningful discussion about how ‘small’ is ‘small’–that is, how big does it need to be.

    And I suspect there is a broader consensus between the political left and political right on that than one would think from only listening to the empty rhetoric on both sides (particularly given how narrow the actual distance between the mainstream left and right in the USA). For instance, we all want government big enough to defend us from foreign aggressors, big enough domestically to ensure the rule of law (which entails being big enough to maintain the legislative machinery thereof) &c &c. Few of us want government big enough to dictate what consenting adults do in the bedroom, or what we choose to read, or whether or how to practise religion, &c &c.–and it is ironic that a number (by no means all) of soi disant “conservatives” are vigorous proponents of governmental intervention in social mores. But that’s a whole other topic…

    Much of it, alas, comes down to sloganeering, and American elections seem to owe far more to Madison Ave sloganeering than to any sense of public discourse about rational solutions to complex problems. In this last election, it seemed there was less substance in the campaigns of either party than in the average toothpaste commercial.

    Much more could be said on all this, but this is an old thread, and I have been overposting again!

  29. …but damn it, I can’t stop myself from a short addendum to the above:

    The ultimate proponents of ‘small government’ were Marx and Engels, who believed communism would properly and inevitably led to the the withering away of the state.

    And we all know how well that worked out.

    Something with a bit more substance than slogans calling for ‘smaller government’ is wanted; Reagan promised as much (and in fact, government grew under his term in office–as did the deficit). And some detail about what is ‘fair’ trade rather than ‘free’ trade (‘fair’ to whom; how and why?) &c.

    Everything will change? Everything has changed? under Trump? He’s a flim-flam man, I think a lot of folks are going to be disappointed (but not me, I confess). We’ll just have to see how it goes.

  30. I still haven’t got any answer about Trump’s statements about socialism.
    For example, would there be any change in federal policies in favoring rural businesses rather than let the market forces prevail? I don’t know, I don’t recall any debate about such ideas.

  31. Megalonyx says: “Something with a bit more substance than slogans calling for ‘smaller government’ is wanted”

    No problem. In the American context, this requires an historical perspective. Our first arrangement was the Articles of Confederation. It was essentially a military alliance among the 13 states, under which the country functioned during the Revolution and while the new Constitution was drafted in 1787, and then ratified in 1788.

    The new Constitution was regarded with suspicion by the states, who had just thrown off one tyranny and didn’t want to create a new one. The Constitution gave the new government a limited list of powers, and even that was controversial. Ratification by the states was reluctant, with the understanding that there would be amendments restricting the new government’s powers — thus the addition of the Bill of Rights. Article 10 specifically provides: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” (For clarity, some of the things the Constitution prohibits the states from doing are coining money and making foreign alliances.)

    In the old Republican party, “limited government” meant that the federal government should be restricted to exercising only those powers specifically granted to it by the Constitution; and of course, taxation should be only what is needed for doing those things. Thus there was opposition to federal legislation and taxation for Cabinet posts like Secretary of Education, of Labor, of Housing, Health Care, etc., because those weren’t Constitutional functions of the federal government. That has always been my position.

    Now, Republican “social conservatives” want the feds to control things like marriage, abortion, etc., and present-day “liberals” want the feds to exercise economic controls, hand out welfare, provide medical care, etc. But under the Constitution, those things are properly functions of the states.

  32. Interesting post SC. I voted 3rd party (Johnson), saw Trump in person during the primaries at one of his rallies. I was surprised that Trump won (confirmation bias on my part). I despised Hillary enough that I couldn’t vote for her, but thought she was preferable for several reasons. There is a real risk of the entire supreme court becoming completely right wing. Even if you’re a conservative this isn’t a good thing. The court needs voices from both sides. The social conservative mandate of overturning Roe vs. Wade, also brings in Christian theocratic rulings that include creationism in the classroom along with other church-state entanglements that I despise.
    Another issue is that Trump, while being a crowd pleaser and a great schmoozer and a (used car type) salesman does make me incredibly nervous to be in charge of the military and the nuclear deterrent.
    Now to the thesis of your post. Is putting (for example) Betty DeVos in charge of the department of Education going to mean the end of public education and will the United States have universal Creationist education? What about all the social conservative dreams of ending abortion on demand, prayer in school, and all the other liberal victories that stick in the craw of the typical old fart Trump voter? Has everything changed? Possibly, but it won’t change overnight. A Trump second term is likely (if he decides to run again) in which case I think there will be a lot of changes I wouldn’t like to see, but even two years out an irate electorate can put a stop to a lot of changes.
    During the primaries Trump was accused by Cruz of having “New York values”. This is something important to understand that Trump at his core doesn’t want to push the Bible Belt values on the rest of us. This alone makes him better than George W. Bush, and somehow we survived him.

  33. Trump won’t push the Bible Belt values on us, sure. Trouble is, he won’t care, or even notice, if Pence or the others do.

  34. Troy recalls:

    George W. Bush, and somehow we survived him.

    We did. But well over 150,000 (and counting) Iraqi civilians did not.

  35. You wrote:
    “There would be such consequences if the currently prevailing ideology, inherent in the Donald Trump election, were indeed theocratic and authoritarian. But we don’t think it is. It will certainly be far from perfect — but so is everything else — and in our humble opinion, we think the alternative would have been worse.

    “We may be wrong, of course, and we fully expect to be criticized for this post as we have for others, like Beware of All Tyrannical Dogma, and before that The Folly of Economic Creationism. But in the true spirit of science, we shall wait to see if the losing party’s predictions validate their hypothesis.”

    Well, since you mentioned science and validation, what is your justification for your hypothesis that “we don’t think it is”? Yeah, you could be wrong but that’s not the issue–the issue is why are you so hopeful (I’m tempted to use “faithful”) he won’t be the theocratic authoritarian science denier he clearly showed himself to be? I’ve seen no evidence in Trump’s words or actions to give me your kind of hope. His years-long denial of Obama’s citizenship was easily as irrational and bizarre as some of these creationist claims you’re fond of criticizing. More consistency needed.

  36. A further thought occurs, appropriate to this old thread. wolfwalker characterises (and accurately, I agree) a portion of Trump voters as

    rural working-class people, who have been left behind by the policies of the last eight years, are mired in the worst kind of economic and social depression and despair, and simply wanted somebody to notice them and do something to solve the problems they face – unemployment, drug addiction, lack of opportunity.

    If one allows abuse of cheap gin as a form of drug addiction, then this portrait exactly matches that of the original 19th century Luddites.

    Just sayin’…

  37. @Megalonyx – touché