I’m afraid that the answer is: Nobody.
In my first, doomed attempt at higher education, I had a spectacular professor for my first ever Art History class (a survey class). His name doesn’t Google anymore (it never has), so I’ll go ahead and say that his name was Sterling Callison. He was already as old as the hills at the time, and he was a funny, charming man, highly intelligent and thoroughly interesting 100% of the time. He had a theory about the world:
“I have come to believe that the world is secretly run by an unknown group of men working in an underground bunker in Beirut, Lebanon.”
We laughed, and Professor Callison was kidding, but I, at least, wondered if there could actually be any guiding hands running the world in secret. It almost makes sense that there would be, because, well, isn’t the world too big and important an enterprise to be left to chance? This was the mid-1960s, so there was daily chaos around the world and a lot of horrific chaos in recent history, but who is to say that the forces that were planning everything did not prefer chaos to order? After all, don’t people make more demands on their rulers in good times than they do in bad? Why yes, they do. In bad times, people just want the explosions and the gunfire and the starvation and the disease to end. So maybe, I thought, it’s true that there is a secret cabal running things.
On a smaller scale, I have spent the years from Reagan onward believing that there was an organizational structure hidden in our government the purpose of which was to provide continuity to matters of United States policy and protect us from excesses of individuality. Maybe it was too great a challenge to run the entire world but certainly the government of any one nation could be managed by a large, secret bureaucracy from beyond the vagaries of democratic elections. I have quite the dramatic flair, so I usually referred to it as the “shadow government” or the “permanent” something or other. I’ve mentioned it in numerous blog posts. How could the future of the country be allowed to float willy-nilly down so unpredictable a stream as the American culture in general or the electoral process in particular? It only made sense to me that there should be a powerful group that was not affected by elections that could guide the country forward.
Of course, I’m such a pessimist that I was sure that this group was krypto-fascist and anti-democratic. Even that was somehow comforting. A Capitalist, consumerist society requires a citizenry with jobs and spending money to prop it up. My thinking was that they would always need a prosperous middle class and a large working class to keep the wheels turning. Their need to keep us buying things would protect us from the worst abuses and force the system to maintain our relative prosperity. They needed the taxes that we paid, too. There were so many of us that the taxes really added up.
I can see now that this was an effort on my part to find a force for order in the world where none actually exists. The idea that the entire world just stumbles forward decade by decade with no hand, steady or otherwise, on the ship’s wheel is extremely disturbing. But after the events of the past year, I am afraid that that is the truth of the matter. No one is in charge; no one guides human society; there are no forces of order, benevolent or otherwise, to save us. There is nothing standing between us and the rampant greed and pride and hubris of individual humans who haven’t got a single thought about anything but their own wealth and power.
The best metaphor for our human condition is the astronomical situation of the earth itself: it is spinning wildly off into the distance at a dangerous rate of speed with no thought to our safety.
The election of Donald Trump makes it clear that there is no behind-the-scenes authority that can control our elected officials. Honestly, I was surprised that Trump lived to attend his inauguration. But here we are, one year after his election. His program of destroying the Federal government is moving along rapidly and successfully. The State Department, the DOJ, Energy, the EPA, Education, the Department of the Interior, Health and Human Services, all of these are already in such a depleted condition that it will take years to rehabilitate them. Many talented long-term civil servants have left for jobs in the private sector, and many uniquely talented appointees have been summarily dismissed without a care as to whether there was anyone to replace them. In State, especially, it appears that the plan is to simply empty the building and let it all go undone. So no, I no longer think that there is anyone behind the scenes striving to keep the country on an even keel.
It appears that chaos is, indeed, the goal. Our elected politicians seem to be leading a charge away from order and security. The people in charge are going in this direction all over the world. Maybe the human population has reached some kind of critical mass. Perhaps there are enough of us now that there is no longer a need for a semi-prosperous consumer class. We all need some things, and we will all find ways to buy some other things that we want. The rake-off from this huge till is enough already to make a few thousand families vastly wealthy. So no, the powerful no longer need us to do anything but struggle to remain alive, which humans can be expected to do on their own.
If the major money, the Davos-Bilderberg Axis, and the biggest corporations, are all expecting to profit from disorder, they’ll certainly get all of the help that they need from willing stooges, and at bargain prices, too. All of the political parties appear to be complicit in an effort to cause every molecule of American culture to bounce with violent energy, while democracy is being dismantled and people’s security is being destroyed. It’s not only the Republicans, it’s all of our elected politicians, and increasingly the forces for negativity include almost all of their appointees. All of them are controlled through a complex web of financial interaction by the real money, whatever you chose to call them. Ordinary citizens, simple members of American society, join in the effort by concentrating their attentions on distractions real or imagined that may or may not have anything to do with politics, except the politics of dividing people into opposing classes by race, age, religion, region, education, sex, or just any old damn thing at all.
This is where I usually wind up for a big finish that sounds like one of those guys that I remember standing on street corners around Wall Street long ago, either wearing sandwich boards or just waving a Bible in the air, preaching the message: SOON, A CLEANSING!!! Forgive me, but I hardly have the energy anymore, and besides that I’m getting over a mild cold.
I’m also over the desire to try to rouse the rabble to vote, or get involved, or give a shit. It’s too late. Isn’t it so cute, and quaint, that people got excited the other day when the Democrats did surprisingly well in a bunch of local elections? A lovely transgender person in Virginia won a contest with a Republican who had sponsored an anti-transgender bathroom bill. A black African immigrant from Liberia became a small city mayor in Minnesota, or one of those flat, cold states anyway. This is all very nice, but where would it be going? Let’s say that next year and in 2020 all of the elections go to the Democrats and the Republicans become an endangered species, what would that signify? It would only mean that we’d have another Clinton or Obama to supervise the destruction of our rights, our Constitution, our prosperity, and our security (health; retirement; income; etc.), and another Democratic congress to do what their donors tell them to do. We might be about 3.5% (three-point-five-percent) better off with Democrats in charge. That is nowhere near enough to make a difference.
I guess that I managed a pretty good pot of doom there in spite of myself! I’m not surprised. Doom is my business, my only business.