What now?

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Kath­leen Parker

— 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 is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact her at kath­leen­parker@ wash­post.com.


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