THE PULL QUOTE is from Ryan, who is making an analogy between the 9/11 Hijackers and the subtle targeting done by Cambridge Analytica to sway voters in swing states who were on the fence about voting for Clinton in the 2016 Presidential Election. Massive, networked systems (Google, Facebook) were turned against us using subtle knives; between this and the arcane Electoral College system ostensibly designed to prevent people like Donald J. Trump from becoming President Of The United States, Donald J. Trump has become President Of The United States.
WE MEET on this particular evening to answer this particular question: how are we responding to what has happened, politically, in this country? One of the things that appears to be different about the rise of Trump is that it has brought to many in the privileged classes the sense of fear and dread that everyone else in the world is always already experiencing. We have marched and given money, and are left with the question: now what? How can we take political action? Brooke provides us with our first answer: we meet. We meet, discuss, we support each other, and we figure out what to do next.
MUCH OF THE DISCUSSION springs from a study of macaque monkey societies, done by Duke University. Tom brings this to us, and summarizes the findings: you can manipulate a macaque monkey's social standing merely by how you introduce him or her into a new environment. Whichever monkey arrives first sits at the top of the ladder and the pecking order goes from there. You can take the same group of monkeys, reverse the order in which they go into another environment, and in turn reverse their social status. The second finding: it appears that this social standing triggers biological markers that lead to health and longevity in the monkeys themselves. Extrapolated to humans, we see evidence, therefore, that perceived social status has real effects and therefore, (this is Tom now) it is rational to seek high (perceived) social status.
It's an aspect of Trump's rise that has gone almost entirely undiscussed: it may or may not be that white, working class men are worse off than they used to be, but that isn't what matters. It's where on the social ladder the white working class man now sees himself. Perceived social order is exactly that: an order. Who is above you? Who is below you? A quote that runs around repeatedly in my (Paul's) feed on this topic: "Equal rights for others doesn't mean less rights for you. It isn't pie." And that's true of the rights themselves. But it isn't true of social status. If you perceive someone going up, you must also perceive someone else going down.
This leads to perhaps the revelation of the evening, which comes again from Brooke. To deliver on the promise of making things better for the white working class men who brought him into office, Trump doesn't have to make their lives better. He could instead target some other class of person and make their lives worse. Like, say, Muslims. Or immigrants. Or women.
So what's the alternative view of the world that combats this? Socialism and Communism have, you know, largely and spectacularly failed. We aren't going to wake up tomorrow and just acknowledge each other as equals when social structure and standing seems to be baked into our animal selves. And also, Donald Trump ought not be elected President of the United States. So this is a problem we have to solve for.