“What we get to see with Trump is that capitalism has nowhere to go other than into the darker reaches of itself.”
The aesthetics of narcissistic Capitalism, from Charles Liburd
“ The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as all serious endeavour in art and science. He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness.
In this sense I am religious. To me, it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all that there is. ”
― Albert Einstein, On Cosmic Religion and Other Opinions and Aphorisms
I have come to like Trump for all the reasons everyone hates him. This, of course, is not true or really only true in a kind of Trumpian way – – in that it’s a lie. But unlike Trump, I have a tendency to care about the truth, so I will try and extract some form of truth from this sentence.
What I like about Trump is that he is a good visual. His true awfulness is on display for all to see. It is an irrefutable awfulness that shows itself everywhere and in everything that he does or says. It is also a comedic and tragic awfulness that invites concentration and analysis. For me, this does not make him a fascist, a kleptomaniac, a madman, a pervert or a post-truth prophet. It makes him useful.
It is, I agree, a terrible kind of use but useful it is. What we get to see with Trump is that capitalism has nowhere to go other than into the darker reaches of itself. This has been happening for some time, but it is only with Trump that we get to see it where we live: on our TV, our ‘news’ programs, our newspapers and magazines, on online chat shows and forums; and on ships meant to be heading for North Korea as part of an ‘Armada’ but actually on its way to Australia. Its exposure, like the ocean, is deep and wide too.
Trump’s narcissism (and long may it last) demands that everything is seen. It must have an audience, it exists to be witnessed and lauded. The fact that there is a disconnect between what he believes to be true and what we are seeing, does not concern him. No, more than that…it is a concern he believes does not exist.
And it here, in the small crevice of that disconnection, that Trump meets capitalism, that in turn meets the most fabulous revolutionary opportunity of our time that will be exposed and exploited by humanity and it is, by the force of capitalist narcissism, unstoppable.
A narcissistic economic system will inevitably throw up a narcissistic prophet who will come at the end of its days to usher in the new. That prophet must reflect the fundamentals of the system he represents in a way that is visceral, visual and profound: so that everyone can see it, feel it, hear it; and in so doing come to understand that the end is nigh. Trump is that visual. Trump is the beginning of that end.
At the centre of capitalism is an indestructible narcissism. In fact, it is so indestructible that it has vanquished all in its path and scared off the rest to the shallow waters of old starving ideologies where they flap about seeking relevance in 19th-century articulation. That capitalism’s very fierceness is its beautiful weakness, we seem to have missed.
Fear can do that to you.
Capital has now achieved its goal of not needing you or I. It needs no one except itself and the 1% of the world’s population who accumulate it. The rest, the 99%, are left free to wonder. Capital doesn’t care about us. We are no longer useful. We can die in our droves without Medicare, without a functioning NHS, without functioning and affordable schools, pensions or savings. We can drown in debt, graciously handed out as a substitute for decent wage increases. We can do anything with the economic infrastructure it has left behind…or not. It doesn’t care. It has left us free to roam off the plantation and it has walled off the master’s house that now functions as a self-contained, self-serving, self-reflecting system. And like Trump, it is steeped in, trained in, buried in the belief that our concerns do not exist.
And this is the beautiful mistake. They do exist. They always have and they always will. We are not roaming the fields of the capitalist zombie apocalypse still believing in the American dream of endless growth, or that our self-worth is tied to a system that only shares out that particular commodity parading as wealth to the 1%. There are just too many left behind or (as I would prefer it) jettisoned forward to allow that to happen. Ultimately, contrary to our endearing slowness, we are just too smart.
People are thinking. They are inventing. They are re-inventing. They are looking into their hearts, their systems, their religions and their basic humanity; and they are coming up with as many new systems as gods and radicals can envisage. They are managing the barricades. They are seeking and finding a voice. They are digging deep because, on the surface, all looks like devastation and lies. They are not turning to the leftovers like scavengers. They are emphasising and connecting. They are finding spirit in spite of the poverty of thought and debt capitalism has left them embroiled in. They are taking responsibility, in the arena of their gifts, for the long consumer lead slumber they have been in.
Capitalism is faced with a very inconvenient truth. It has achieved the goal of its own narcissism. It is a monotheistic God whose grandiosity possesses all. It has taken unto itself all that is possible, and in so doing has freed us from its clutches— allowing us the freedom to think, to change, to innovate to deconstruct this Trumpian world.
Charles Liburd is a script writer, script consultant and producer. He sometimes writes poems.