Jim Garrison and Ken Wilber offer a post-election report on the rise of Donald Trump and the implications for the future, as well as the many failures among the liberal leading edge that contributed to Trump’s election.
The Audacity of Hope vs. The Tragedy of Trump
When Barack Obama was elected, he came in on a massive wave of optimism. People were ready for a positive “Audacity of Hope” type change. So how did we end up with a xenophobic strongman just 8 years later?
Many people who voted for Trump say they did so because they were “fed up” with establishment politics that they felt had left them behind — a geopolitical establishment that many of them believed President Obama himself would help dismantle. But despite his best efforts, Obama was not able to heal the political divide. If anything, our politics became even more entrenched and more partisan during his administration, which caused many people to become even more disillusioned with government in general and liberalism in particular, which they believed had abandoned its roots by becoming too exclusionary, too elitist, and too disconnected from the problems everyday Americans were struggling with.
So voters chose the other path they were presented with, and effectively selected the Anti-Obama. And in so doing, they ended up electing a strongman who will likely end up making their pain even worse, not better.
A Failure at the Leading Edge
As Ken Wilber discusses in his Trump and the Post-Truth World eBook, the pathologies of postmodernism inevitably lead to narcissism. Ken first wrote about the worrisome dance between liberal pluralism and postmodernism in his 1999 book Boomeritis, which explores how the “Me Generation” originally co-opted postmodern liberal slogans and wrapped them around their own egos, confusing the incredible freedom of thought and expression found at higher stages of development with the impulsive wish-fullfilment of lower stages. And in the nearly two decades since that book was written, the problem has only gotten worse. “Boomeritis” has now metastasized into “Millennialitis”, and safe spaces around the country have become incubators for this virulent infection.
Postmodern liberal politics, which originally set out to protect the marginalized and downtrodden in our society, got hijacked from the inside out, and the idea that “people have the right not to be oppressed” was gradually replaced with “I have the right not to be offended”.
“There is no truth but my truth,” reads the postmodern banner, smeared against the post-truth Trump train barreling down the tracks.
“Evolution can’t lead when it has no idea what direction is true.”Ken Wilber
Donald Trump was able to capitalize on all of this, doubling down on his own narcissism while using the surrounding “post-truth” atmosphere to amplify his reality distortion field and manipulate the media. And so an outright failure among some of the highest stages of development has opened the door for their own system to be hijacked by some of the lowest levels of development.
A Global Inflection Point
Here’s one of the central ironies of Trump’s Presidency and the disruption it is causing: one way or the other, regardless of who got elected, the fan was about to get filthy due to a number of accelerating technological trends that are just about to reach an exponential tipping point — namely artificial intelligence and robotics. These two technologies alone are enough to create massive economic disruption in the years and decades to come as more and more of our workforce gets replaced and automated. The genie, the cat, and the toothpaste have left their respective bottles, bags, and tubes, and one way or the other the civilized world is going to require a total and complete institutional overhaul.
The only question is, which political party will be the first to acknowledge these unavoidable, massively disruptive technological trends? Who will be the first to honestly communicate these rapid changes and their repercussions for American workers? After all, it is very possible that Trump is only going to accelerate this transformation. Even if he himself cannot or will not take the first steps toward post-scarcity solutions, he can surely create the right conditions (whether positive or negative) for these solutions to be surfaced and taken seriously in public discourse.
A New Hope
So where is the silver lining hiding in these all-too-ominous thunderheads? For one, we seem to be witnessing a rebirth of civic engagement on an absolutely unprecedented scale. An entire new generation — one that had previously taken the hard-won victories of previous generations for granted — is now waking up to the inherent fragility of civilization as they begin to understand how much easier it is for our system to go backward than it is to go forward, and that any path to genuine “progress” requires an indomitable commitment to the fight.
There is also the possibility that this might end up being very good for the integral project as a whole. Our leading edge, after all, has failed catastrophically, which means that many worldcentric thinkers and leaders are now beginning to look for a brand new leading edge that can save the baby of liberal pluralism (and what a beautiful baby it is!) while flushing all that nasty bathwater. We need a far more integrated and optimistic post-scarcity vision of our shared future, one that can recalibrate and revolutionize the foundational institutions our civilization is resting upon while also creating more security and prosperity for American citizens.
This is the story we are particularly interested in here at Integral Life, and one that we will be spending the next several weeks and months exploring. Stay tuned!
Written by Corey deVos
About Jim Garrison
Dr. Jim Garrison served as President and Chairman of Wisdom University (now the Wisdom School of Graduate Studies) from 2005–2012, and is now President of Ubiquity University. Previously, he founded and served as President of the Gorbachev Foundation/USA and the State of the World Forum, both San Francisco-based non-profit institutions created to establish a global network of leaders dedicated to creating a more sustainable global civilization.
About Ken Wilber
Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.