The Daily DeX: News, Notes, And Quotes For 05/06/2019

The Daily DeX curates the most compelling news, opinion, narratives, data, polls, arguments, and dot-connecting. It’s ammunition for weaponizing our sense-making networks. Load up.

Today on The Daily DeX: Addiction to the cult of war, another Trump/postmodernism story, and investing in climate change … to win!!

+“Americans Can’t Give Up The Cult of War” | Foreign Policy

“But while victory is not a priority, defeat is unacceptable. As President Donald Trump once put it, “winners aren’t losers,” and America’s homegrown blood cult has reached such a frenzied height that admitting defeat is tantamount to heresy, even if stopping the wars would save the lives of actual soldiers. In other words, while the wars are a bottomless pit in terms of grand strategy, they serve a domestic socio-political need.

The wars serve as a grand ritual of American civil religion in which sacrifice and martyrdom are props for a vision of the imperium, even at the cost of the empire’s actual strategic objectives. The troops are symbolic avatars for American values, but as actual human beings, they are expendable. Not only does conflict provide an enemy to define America against, but warfare itself is seen as a crucible in which the national character is defined and the soldier placed in the role of Christ, expected to redeem America through his (and in the popular imagination, it is always his, not her) suffering.”

–>Take American empire seriously. It’s the most complex artifact civilizations have thus far developed. Its grim, awe-filled beauty is that the very idea has always been more powerful than our tanks, carriers, nukes, legions, and the almighty dollar combined. Still, the age-old story of how empires rise and fall has only one iteration. Empires rise because they’re ambitious, then fall because their reach exceeds their grasp. What were once assets become liabilities. Unfortunately, it takes a long time for reality to settle in. We’re still badass. And I’d rather live in a real empire than a former empire like Great Britain or a fake empire like Russia. But no one I take seriously believes America is still rising. Indeed, it’s a significant feat for an empire to simply stay afloat at such a late stage after two world wars. 

+“Postmodernism didn’t cause Trump. It explains him.” | The Washington Post

By the 1980s, conservative scholars like Allan Bloom — author of the influential “The Closing of the American Mind” — challenged postmodern theorists, not necessarily for their diagnosis of the postmodern condition but for accepting that condition as inevitable. Unlike so many of today’s critics, Bloom understood that postmodernism didn’t emerge simply from the pet theories of wayward English professors. Instead, he saw it as a cultural moment brought on by forces greater than the university. Within academia, however, Bloom was particularly worried about students — as reflections of society at large — pursuing commercial interests above truth or wisdom. Describing what he saw as the insidious influence of pop music, Bloom lamented “parents’ loss of control over their children’s moral education at a time when no one else is seriously concerned with it.” He called the rock music industry “perfect capitalism, supplying to demand and helping create it,” with “all the moral dignity of drug trafficking.”

–>By design right-wing cultural propaganda has always been too extreme or too silly to be believed by anyone not already drinking John Birch-flavored kool-aid. So often the right’s silliest propaganda are conspiracy theories coalescing around entertainment, journalism, and universities. These spheres have always been antagonistic to modern conservatism. Postmodernism conspiracy theories are spawn from the wrong and cynical claim that the ideas of Derrida, Lyotard, Baudrillard, and other theorists are prescriptive (concerning ways in which culture should be changed from the top down) rather than descriptive (concerning ways in which culture has been actually changing from the bottom up since about 1970 onward.) The best way to understand Postmodernism is as the natural and inevitable conclusion of a 500-year process we know as The Enlightenment. At this point “incredulity towards metanarratives” is a legitimate stance as long as one can make a compelling case. The worst way to understand postmodernism is in terms of “cultural marxism,” which is only a thing in the minds of conspiracy theorists who are severely butt-hurt that they’re not producing modern culture’s most compelling ideas and thinkers. These people are like Mets fans who hate Yankees fans.  

+“How Big Business Is Hedging Against the Apocalypse” | The New York Times

“Exxon’s arrangement in Texas reflects, in miniature, our national state of indecision about the best approach to climate change. Depending on whom you ask, climate change doesn’t exist, or is an engineering problem, or requires global mobilization, or could be solved by simply nudging the free market into action. Absent a coherent strategy, opportunists can step in and benefit in wily ways from the shifting landscape. Tax-supported renewables in Texas take coal plants offline, but they also support oil extraction. Technology advances, but not the system underneath. Faced with this volatile and chaotic situation, the system does what it does best: It searches out profits in the short term.

Unlike almost every other future event, climate change is 100 percent certain to happen. What we don’t know is everything else: where, or how, or when, or what the changes mean for Facebook or Pfizer or notes of Chinese-government debt. Navigating these thickets of complexity is theoretically what Wall Street excels at; the industry prides itself on its ability to price risk for the whole economy, to determine companies’ values based on their likelihood of generating earnings. But traders are compensated on their quarterly or yearly performance, not on their distant foresight. It takes confidence to walk into your boss’s office talking about sea levels in Mozambique in 2030, when your colleague has a reason to short-sell the Turkish lira this week. Practically no one in the financial system is directly incentivized in the near term to worry about the biggest risk conceivable.”

–>Major disruptions in human activity have always presented money making opportunities. Climate change is and will be no different. Forget the sentiment from years ago that once real, undeniable climate change effects were seen, the portion of the political spectrum that denied them would get on board with the rest of us. Sadly, climate change will deepen the tensions between Democrats and Republicans. Consider a future in which one of the defining political fault lines on Capitol Hill and Wall Street, as well as in boardrooms and think tanks will be capitalizing on the effects of climate change versus mitigating them. Imagine the shift necessary for Republicans deniers in the future to ultimately argue against mitigating climate change on the grounds that generating prosperity will protect Americans from its extreme effects. Sounds crazy now, but…  


Where are your hammers for these nails?

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