Where and What are We? Re-Posting A Quora Piece, as the Time is RIght

What an odd query! How likely is an authoritarian state – in the United States – if we, finally, get a national health system, a rational educational system, and UBI? Really?

Firstly, in case you haven’t noticed, the present US Government has removed many of the “guard rails” of the liberal capitalist state: from attacking the media as “enemies of the people” – a Nazi argument – to the support of an essentially state media (FOX); from attempted corruption of the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, Interior and so forth, to compromising the Intelligence Community. The loss of these “norms” moves us closer to an authoritarian state.

Secondly, again, perhaps you’ve been in a place where there is no news being reported, the rule and law breaking of the present Government, from placing refugee/immigrant children, forcefully separated from their parents, into concentration camps, refusing to provide these children-detainees with adequate room and board, toothbrushes, diapers, showers, emotional support, and so forth, to ignoring lawful subpoenas from Congress, is ongoing.

Thirdly, the corruption of our Foreign Policy – the events in Syria and the Ukraine are just the latest events – even when viewed from the standpoint of a critic who thinks our Foreign Policy is often flawed, is disastrous.

And Fourthly, the company one keeps – the people one considers as “friends” – speaks volumes about an individual. Trump considers as friends, and keeps company with, the likes of Netanyahu, Orban, Bolsinaro, and Johnson, among other extreme right-wingers.

Further, how can one forget Trump’s “both-sidesism” after Charlottesville? Calling Neo-Nazis – and Paleo-Nazis – and White Supremacists “fine people”, as they chant “Jews will not replace us” in a Nuremberg-type march, and attack progressive protesters, killing one. This is not a bridge too far, it is a universe, a solar system too far.

We are living in failing state (not failed); a state in which there are fascist elements in our Government; a state in which the President – Trump – exhibits fascist behavior. I am not throwing around meaningless words, he fulfills some of the criteria defining a fascist.

So, you wonder if social reform might move us to the verge of an authoritarian state? Don’t worry. We are there now. Our vaunted liberal democracy – the one my family, and the families of others, fought and died for – is in serious trouble. We may make it through this Administration, but our country is seriously wounded.

I am undecided about Universal Basic Income, I think that work brings meaning to our lives, all work; because all work is important and has value. Some 150 years ago, Marx wrote that there would come a time when the technology of production would be so advanced and production itself so efficient, with so few workers needed, that the State could decrease the work-day and the work-week so that people (workers) could enjoy their lives at work and out of work.

This state of affairs is possible now, given the efficiency of production. That it is not done is simply a measure of the way our economic system works. UBI is, in other words, an unsettled issue, one in which significant discussion ought be had. Andrew Yang’s comment that his wife – caring for their children at home – ought be compensated in some manner for this unpaid labor is appropriate; UBI would do this. A 50 year old woman who drops out of the work force to care for her failing parents is clearly doing work, she ought be compensated for this; UBI would do this. The operational details, and whether it would be universal, or selective, are issues to be considered.

Finally, it is (partly) precisely because we don’t have a rational National Health System and tax-funded tuition-free higher education that we are in the position we find ourselves. With a fascist-leaning President in the White House, and an authoritarian state coming into view in the distance.

We are one national disaster from the authoritarianism you worry about.

May I suggest a poem that may make this a bit more clear?

The Second Coming

W. B. Yeats

– 1865-1939

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

(bolding added by me)

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About AJ Layon

AJ Layon was, for 28 years, at the University of Florida College of Medicine, in the Division of Critical Care Medicine, in Gainesville, FL. For the approximately 10 years until September 2011, he was Professor and Chief of Critical Care Medicine at UF; In September of 2011 he became System Director and Co-Chairman of Critical Care Medicine in PA; this ended in 2017. He served as a Physician in the Surgical Group with Médecins sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors without Borders) through 2018 and is presently an intensivist in Florida, struggling through the SARS-CoV-2 crisis. While his interests are primarily related to health care, health care reform, and ethical issues, as a citizen of our United States and our world, he will occasionally opine on issues of our "time and destiny". Follow on Twitter @ajlayon
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