In the first summer of Trump, 2017, there’s something happening and it feels bigger than the Comey hearings, even Russia-gate. Who knew that a British election with an inconclusive photo finish could re-channel the anger that drives the global mood? The unheralded Jeremy Corbyn at the left end of the Labor Party is the mouse that roared, and turned the ‘age of anger’ in a different direction.
Corbyn didn’t play the bellowing populist, but he spoke the part. How about a government “for the many, not the few,” Corbyn asked. And millions of new UK voters said, “Yes!” In the face of terrorist outrages in Manchester, then London, just before the voting, Corbyn said: “we must be brave enough to admit the war on terror is simply not working.” It is now Corbyn’s moment to be the standard of unconventional talk that resonates far and wide.
Our show begins with Naomi Klein. Among book-writers on the left, from Michelle Alexander to Bill McKibben to Michael Moore, the line on Naomi Klein is that nobody faster is better, and nobody better is faster. No Is Not Enough is her quick handbook for the Trump era. Her line since No Logo has been that corporate and consumer culture are both hazardous for people and the planet. And Donald Trump? He’s to be seen not as cause of the problem but as evidence of it:
“I am not interested in looking at Trump as just like an aberrant personality and psychoanalyzing of him. He is a symptom. I see him as dystopian fiction come to life, you know, and you read dystopian fiction–whether it’s 1984 or The Handmaid’s Tale or whether you go see a film like The Hunger Games or Elysium–and inevitably we see a story of a bubble of ultra-rich big winners and hordes of locked out losers. What this entire genre is doing and has always done is take the trends and the culture and follows them to their logical conclusion. They hold up a mirror and say: Do you like what you see? I mean, this is not supposed to be a system that’s telling us to go to this dangerous future. It’s telling us to get off that road. That’s the idea. It’s supposed to be holding up a mirror and telling society to swerve. So, you know, I want to look at the roads that lead to Trump much more than I want to look at Trump himself.”
David Graeber, a Yale-trained cultural anthropologist, emerged as something of a cult writer behind the Occupy movement of six years ago — meaning, in his case, a tracker of the invisible stitching around matters of debt and wealth from ancient times.
He has prophesied at different times a standard 15-hour work week and the dissolution of the US empire. In the matter of Tory rule in England, David Graeber has been writing since before the Brexit vote about an “efflorescence of resistance” breaking through — he says — ‘a culture of despair.’
Finally, the Indian-born writer Pankaj Mishra, now London based and widely published in the most respected British and American press, is acutely aware that he embodies a contradiction. His argument in his contentious new book, Age of Anger, is that the European Enlightenment from the 18th Century, modernity itself and globalization have been critical to his success and, at the same time, responsible for the shilling of so many false promises — prosperity, equality, and security — to the great masses of have-nots. (For more Mishra, listen to our 2012 interview with Pankaj on foreign policy)