In Jean-Paul Sartre’s magnum opus, ‘The Age of Reason’, the question is about freedom and freedom only. What does being free mean to a human being? And by the way, why do we live with the constant feeling that we are not really free? What becomes of, and what is the purpose of, existence without freedom? In over three days of an Ulysses-like debacle, an ordinary person called Mathieu is on a mission to find funds to get his mistress a much-needed abortion.
I am not even going to try to attempt to dishonour Sartre here (because his book needs a separate noble space). Suffice it to say that his magnum opus is written with such simple lyricism (not usually expected from Sartre) and abounds with great quotes. My everyday favourite is:
“All I want is’ – and he uttered the final words through clenched teeth and with a sort of shame – ‘to retain my freedom’. ‘I should myself have thought,’ said Jacques, ‘that freedom consisted in frankly confronting situations into which one had deliberately entered, and accepting all one’s responsibilities. But that, no doubt, is not your view.”
The rise of Trump and the cacophony in US politics have been splurged everywhere in the press. His blatant racism, his fascism, his deep desire to kick all Muslims out, Mexicans (all criminals according to him) to be kept at a safe distance behind a wall and so forth, have been marvelled at in the press, and unfortunately applauded by many in the US. Those ‘applauders’ that we know of, are (again quite unfortunately) mainly restricted to the mid-western and southern states in the US. In a Yahoo Politics opinion article, dated 24 March, examples of the ordinary Joes are:
… Ron Vance, 59, an insurance agent from Pahrump, Nev.; Eileen Schmidt, 46, a mother of two from Tiffin, Iowa; Justin Neal, 39, a vehicle maintenance foreman from Bealeton, Va.; Rick Cruz, 62, a semi-retired contractor from Royal Oak, Mich.; Nell Frisbie, 79, a real estate agent from Kiln, Miss.; and A.J. Delgado, 36, a public-interest lawyer from Miami…
In addition to this lot of primarily white working class people, one will be surprised to find Trump supporters even in staunchly democratic states such as California, and even New York. Yes, do not be surprised to meet the odd middle- to old-aged Californian who will tell you that Trump is in fact just saying it ‘as it should be said’. Of course without giving any background to what ‘actually’ is he really saying and more importantly, what is the factual truth to what is actually being said. All reasonable human beings delving in hard societal facts and research will tell you:- immigrants are not criminals. Only a very small percentage commit crime. These same immigrants have played a key role in America’s economic growth;
– terrorists are terrorists, irrespective of their religion;
– antagonizing everyone (China, Russia mainly) is not good economics. You do that and your foreign affairs policies are bound to crash and burn, and
– the words ‘make America great’ do not really mean anything. Ask Walmart. Visit them. America is great when other countries thrive (i.e. China).
Of course if you have followed the debate circuit you would have by now realized that nothing that is being said is really close to the Truth. The lip service paid by everyone has been a revelation that we have now formally entered the age of stupidity (AOS). Rubio’s repeating the same line four times, Cruz’s henchmen and their complete religious nonsense, Carson’s debilities about foreign policies, Christie’s lashing of Obama without any sense but clearly to please the public, Trump being Trump, Kasich playing the kind gentleman (read his past) – all this tells us that this is a discourse provided for the show and by the show. It is all about ratings stupid! They are repeating the line recommended by their gung-ho strategists. Nothing they say makes any socio-economic sense but as long as there are emotions and fists in the air, it all works. This is a true Kafkaesque nightmare. Think about it. Where then are the days of Kennedy, of Roosevelt, Carter, Obama? And now we have circled back to this. Time was when debate was about real ideas. When I look back to old Mitterrand/Chirac 1988, Mitterrand/Giscard 1981 debates, it is shocking how deep we have entered into the Age of Stupidity.
So let us loop back to Sartre for wisdom.
Jean Paul, what is happening here in the US?
Jean Paul: Clearly this is the long term result of a poisonous and heavily mediatised grossly materialist universe, where someone else does the thinking for most beings. Everything is pre-packaged so there is no real need for reason. Just pause, and think of what is happening inside of you, you will realize that all these folks are not in fact free. They are prisoners of an oppressive world. So let me further quote from my book, because I need to get out of this hell:
“I go, I go away, I walk, I wander, and everywhere I go I bear my shell with me, I remain at home in my room, among my books, I do not approach an inch nearer to Marrakech or Timbuktu. Even if I took a train, a boat, or a motorbus, if I went to Morocco for my holiday, if I suddenly arrived at Marrakech, I should be always in my room, at home. And if I walked in the squares and in the souks, if I gripped an Arab’s shoulder, to feel Marrakech in his person – well, that Arab would be at Marrakech, not I. I should still be seated in my room, placid and meditative as is my chosen life, two thousand miles away from the Moroccan and his burnoose. In my room. Forever.”
So to use an old Buddhist proverb: Make an Island of yourself; make yourself the refuge, there is no other refuge.
* Published in print edition on 1 April 2016