So what are we to do?
This is a familiar question to opinion writers. Translation: You’ve told us what’s wrong with everything – and we agree. But, what’s the action plan?
Ah. The action plan. I hoped you’d never ask.
A reader recently wrote three of us Washington Post columnists along these lines: “I feel your frustration and fear,” she wrote, “but what are we to do to counter the insanity besides exercise our right to vote, express our opinions and make monetary contributions?”
Excellent question. Would that someone could answer it.
In such times, I turn to my personal wizard, Van Wishard, whom I’ve introduced in a previous column. A retired trend analyst, Wishard can’t stop his fertile mind from examining the problems of our age. To all questions, his answer is “globalization.” Nothing can be fixed or stopped, he says, until we come to terms with globalization as a profound psychological issue, not just a matter of economics or immigration patterns.
In one of his highly distilled observations, he wonders (but isn’t predicting) whether this may be our last election for a while. To Americans who already feel disenfranchised and voiceless, their votes virtually meaningless as political parties seek to override their votes, this idea won’t much surprise them. Rather, they likely have already begun to feel resigned to a country no longer their own and a world that’s out of control.
Wishard’s thesis hinges on his further observation that the military and Silicon Valley may be the only institutions left that are capable of governing. Might a marriage of military order and advanced technology be in our future? Silicon’s masters of the future are furiously working to create post-human robots that promise to make better decisions – albeit lacking in empathy, at least for the time being – than their human bosses.
Already, it’s difficult to find a human to help you in a brick-and-mortar store, soon to be obsolete except as sensory museums for the elderly and curious. What whimsy awaits? The drone that brings you Starbucks coffee and a bagel?
Such futuristic developments are upon us. The dehumanization to come, via designer genes and surrogate spouses who bring fantasies to life, won’t leave much for humans to do other than cause mischief. Perhaps the rise of the Islamic State and other death-dealing savages are the counterforces to lengthening lives absent meaning – the dark armies of Thanatos, the death drive that Sigmund Freud recognized as an instinct equal to survival.
In the midst of such overwhelming, existential change, the pace of our daily lives will continue to increase as our world continues to shrink. Fear and anxiety are natural reactions, yet no one in the political realm acknowledges this.
Understandably, few want to have a fireside reality chat. First, it isn’t the bright and hopeful message upon which political campaigns are built. A Donald Trump would rather promise to stuff globalization back into the bottle than talk seriously about how America adapts.
We’d rather be distracted by such quandaries as where a transsexual empties his or her bladder. Here’s an action plan for you: If you’re a transsexual woman or a man, use the restroom that corresponds to your chosen sex. Your privates are no one’s business. There, that was easy.
The rest is not so simple, which is why Trump is so popular. He makes things seem simple by offering slogans as solutions and by essentially denying globalization. This isn’t only dishonest; it’s offensive.
Globalization today has become a force unto itself – an expanding, assimilating organ nourished by diverse cultures, symbiotic systems and a rapidly converging collective psyche. There’s no separating one from the whole.
And there’s no turning back. Any presidential candidate who isn’t talking about globalization proactively, realistically and, yes, optimistically isn’t shooting straight. Worse, he or she doesn’t get it.
Action plan? My robot and I will get back to you.
Meanwhile, Wishard finds hope in young people, who, notwithstanding the fashionable rise of socialism, travel abroad, speak more than one language, have made friends across cultures through social media and accept international integration as the new normal.
Perhaps it will take a younger candidate to one day lead the country into this new-ish century, assuming a robot doesn’t beat him or her to it. But for now, the right candidate would do well to explain to people why they’re uneasy and convince them that the human race, not just this country, is on the verge of awesomeness (for real) – and walk them through an unavoidable adventure.
Kathleen Parker’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.