If we are to be replaced by machines, if we are to automate the socioeconomic reproduction of humanity, we mere humans had better do something to make ourselves useful. What has the crushing pressure of earning a livelihood always left us no time for? Self-government. Now is the time to create something closer to pure democracy. What if technology could be used to make a deliberative body that consists not of a few hundred representatives but rather tens of thousands of citizens? And what if almost anyone could become well-informed enough to partake in democratic decision-making, by getting paid to do so in civic colleges open to all?
Legitimacy is under attack. Without legitimacy as a value, we have no argument against power. Without such an argument, there is no abuse of power, only use of power.
Putin and Trump have demonstrated how easily legitimacy is questioned, how precarious it is. I will say again what I have said before: it is not so much the means, but the ends, that count in questions of legitimacy. Government always employs disproportionate power, but it can be employed for the sake of further securing and enriching concentrated power or for the sake of creating a society more equal in the distribution of wealth and power.
Normalization is real. I watch it happening to myself. Every terrible policy the plutocrats promised has become the new baseline. Every subsequent development toward implementing those policies is but an incremental step toward what we have already accepted as given, and so does not seem as outrageous. And so we become desensitized to injustice. We lose perspective. We lose ourselves.
It is no accident that plutocrats have fomented nationalism as we stand on the brink of a global climate crisis. Anti-immigration policies are being implemented just in time to shut out a generation of climate refugees around the world, beginning with Syrians. These policies serve dual plutocratic goals: protect concentrated wealth from being taxed for humanitarian causes and capitalize on populist xenophobia in order to cement political power.
The latest Wikileaks dump is yet another Pyrrhic victory for truth and transparency. Each leak is calculated to undermine the legitimacy of any threat to Putin and Trump: intelligence agencies, Clinton, liberals, elections. These targets deserve to be criticized, but not like this – not for the sake of a greater deception, a greater obfuscation, a greater evil: autocracy.
Putin, Trump, and their enablers employ an increasingly common tactic: expose or oppose something that many people, especially liberals, dislike — surveillance, corruption, meddling in foreign elections, drone strikes, Islamic patriarchy, media bias — and use that as justification for doing much worse; then, when liberals protest, delegitimize them as hypocrites.
It’s all about the ends, not the means. What is important is not so much truth or falsehood, but to what uses the truths or falsehoods are employed.