Cultural Discourse looks at a broad range of cultural issues.
21st March 2016

Donald Trump: A Few More Words

On Donald Trump: A Few More Words

by John David Ebert


Civilizations do not just unfold randomly. They have a morphological structure to them, with distinct epochs and phases just like living organisms. Oswald Spengler, in his Decline of the West, was not even the first to point this out, for he was coming out of a tradition of ideas regarding historical cycles going back through Goethe, Vico and even Hesiod’s Four World Ages. The Hindus, too, with their great yugas, had similar concepts.

The motivating force, for instance, that brings a civilization into being is always the same: there is a sudden recognition of Death, and a new mortuary cult, with new burial practices, comes into being as the response to the challenge of the metaphysical terror of Death (to borrow now from Toynbee’s vocabulary). The Egyptian pyramids correspond morphologicaly to the West’s Gothic cathedrals and to the now lost wooden temples of the Doric and Vedic ages. The gigantic temples of ancient Sumer from its Late Uruk period (c. 3300 BC) have mostly disintegrated because they were built not with stone, for the most part, but mud brick. They were, however, huge–the White Temple dedicated to the god Anu at the city of Uruk is an example (shown below).


The great cities that then come into being are mostly concerned with myth and metaphysics until they cycle down into their End Phases, which are also morphologicaly similar. Such phases are characterized by huge and impersonal cosmopolises filled with rootless populations who have poured in from the countryside looking for work, and they are concerned not with metaphysics but with the pragmatics and economics of living. Money now becomes the motivating force as the religious lyricism that brought the society into being begins to grow dim, until finally vanishing altogether. And politics, once based on metaphysical ideas–whether of divinely appointed kings or membership in a city-state polis–begins to disintegrate into mere zoological power struggles.

Which brings us to Donald J. Trump and my earlier warnings this year about his ominous rise to power. Violence is now becoming a standard and expected feature of his rallies, as protesters clash, again and again, with ever more increasing violence, against Trump’s supporters, who are beginning to resemble, more and more, an angry mob loyal only to its leader.

Violence entered the political arena in ancient Rome, too, when the land-reformer Tiberius Gracchus was murdered in 133 BC, beaten to death by senators in broad daylight. And let us not forget the outbreak of the Social War that then followed in  91-88 BC, in which the Roman general Sulla, together with his loyal veterans, turned their army around and marched on Rome as an unprecedented event. Sulla declared a permanent state of emergency after winning the war against Marius and became Rome’s first dictator to hold the office for the rest of his life.

Trump says he has a big job ahead of him in cleaning up ISIS, just as did Pompey the Great, when he was appointed the task of cleaning up the pirates of the Mediterranean and then stabilizing the Middle East, which he invaded in 63 BC, and then stormed the city of Jerusalem, thus clearing the path for the rise of the Roman-appointed client king Herod the Great. Herod’s reign was generally disastrous, as his paranoia led to increasing assassinations among members of his family that he thought might try to murder him and take over the office. A similar disaster lay in store for Nouri al-Maliki, as his persecution of the Sunnis–immediately after Obama (disastrously) pulled American forces out of Iraq in 2011–cleared the path for the rise of ISIS.

Trump claims to have hired a “private security force”–who wear plainclothes–after a violent altercation between a Secret Service agent and a Time magazine photographer which took place in Virginia on February 29 (photo shown above). Wealthy men, too, like Caesar, Pompey and Crassus, were able to afford to buy the loyalty of private armies, and they used them to storm Rome and seize control of its political machinery.

Trump has threatened that if he doesn’t get the GOP nomination, then there will be riots; and this has an “ominous” sound to it. In fact, it is beginning to sound more and more as if Trump intends to take the nomination “by whatever means necessary,” and if he comes up short on delegates, there could be even more–and more serious–violence at the GOP Convention in July.

When the political machinery of a civilization begins to break down–as ours here in America has been doing since the 9/11 attacks–ideas gradually give way to violent power struggles. It is like a return to Nature: from the “oystrygods gaggin fishygods” (to use Joyce’s phrase) that marks the start of the civilization, and then onward past the metaphysics that civilize it and transform it from a zone of Maximal Stress to a Zone of Cooperation, it inevitably returns back to Nature, back to zoology, and back to tribalism.

Trust me: Trump will get the nomination and he will not just beat Hillary Clinton, but he will beat her by a landslide.

After that, it might be wise to just stay indoors.


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