Prof Kirk Combe
Professor of English and Cultural Studies at Denison University, USA. He teaches and researches in the areas of satire, literary and cultural theory, and popular culture. His latest book is Speculative Satire in Contemporary Literature and Film: Rant Against the Regime (Routledge, 2021)
Section 1: Policy and political context
- The far-too-normal election
- One pandemic, two Americas and a week-long election day
- Political emotion and the global pandemic: factors at odds with a Trump presidency
- The pandemic did not produce the predominant headwinds that changed the course of the country
- COVID-19 and the 2020 election
- President Trump promised a COVID vaccine by Election Day: that politicized vaccination intentions
- The enduring impact of the Black Lives Matter movement on the 2020 elections
- Where do we go from here? The 2020 U.S. presidential election, immigration, and crisis
- A nation divided on abortion?
- Ending the policy of erasure: transgender issues in 2020
- U.S. presidential politics and planetary crisis in 2020
- Joe Biden and America’s role in the world
- President Biden’s foreign policy: engagement, multilateralism, and cautious globalization
- Presidential primary outcomes as evidence of levels of party unity
- A movable force: the armed forces voting bloc
- Guns and the 2020 elections
- Can Biden’s win stop the decline of the West and restore the role of the United States in the world?
You don’t know me. But I know you. I’ve been at your neck for about four decades. Feeding. But don’t bother looking in the mirror. You won’t see me there. Sucking. Not because I’m not there. But because you’ve been convinced, that I’m not there. You see no teeth marks, no puncture wounds. Such details, such evidence of my existence are anathema to you. How is this possible? Simple. They don’t match the worldview that has been formulated for you, by Conservatives and Liberals alike. Instead, you imagine me to be Nature, perhaps some manner of Fate or, more likely, as God’s heaven-sent plan. I like that rationale best. It fosters your belief in Free Will even as you accept your ultimate impotence. It rouses your faith in a pure and fierce individuality even as it cripples your facility to examine tangible circumstances. What could better serve my never-slaking thirst?
To be perfectly honest, on no occasion do I find our little arrangement more charming than at election time. That’s when you exercise your sacred Choice, assert your dearly held political views. On Election Day, that’s when you’re free to choose (to lose) between, well, me or me. Ah, I can see that you’re puzzled. You haven’t a clue as to who I am, nor about what I speak. Very well, then. I’ll elaborate.
Call me, for the sake of whimsy, Count von Hayek. I hail from the tranquil shores of Lac Léman. Mont Pèlerin. Nothing ghastly or Transylvanian. I am no ghoul in the trivial sense, lurking in dark shadows. I am a button-down variety of fiend, my powers not preternatural but pecuniary. At present, they feature a fearsome three: debt, derivatives, dividuation. Of these, you understand, albeit imperfectly, only one. Debt. You are in it. No need to demur. You are, one way or another. Or, more feasibly, in multiple ways. There is no shame in it. You are indebted by design. Unless you belong to my fortunate 1%, debt is your lot—and my lifeblood. To be straightforward, you work to feed me. My financial entrepreneurs see to that, monetizing your debts as surely as owners starve laborers. Wage-slave or debt-slave are of a piece: to enrich me, I impoverish you. We play the game of accumulation by dispossession, you and I. And only I know the rules. And only I make the rules. And only I know such a game is afoot. And there is no other game in town. So take one guess at who is winning. Eight men—my happiest minions—hold as much wealth as the poorest half of the planet: 3.6 billion people. In the land of the free and the home of the brave, 40 million live in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty, and 5.3 million in absolute poverty.
A more recent trick of mine is derivatives. Don’t trouble your mind. You’ve no hope of understanding them. Not even the stockbrokers do, except as tools for swindle. These are bets made upon bets—and then often betted on again—packaged and repacked into confounding instruments of finance bundled to obfuscate. Frequently, your debts are the fodder. Remember that 2008 subprime mortgage crisis? Such a romp. And what “correctives” came about as a result of that “catastrophe”? Well, since 2008, the share of the global wealth held by my disciples has increased from 42.5% to 50.1%. Nowadays, a gratifying 70% of the world’s working-age population owns just 2.7% of global wealth. Yes, as I always say, nothing like a good worldwide financial meltdown to convince people being sucked dry, four decades of blue-collar Republican voters say, to clamor to be sucked drier. I daresay, at this point, you are utterly perplexed. Rest assured, however, that you never profit from derivatives. These devices are a casino game for the super-wealthy. A means by which they wager for more super-wealth. Atop the global wealth pyramid, to be sure, is no place for the limited brainpower of the commoner.
Yet never question your utility. My latest and most telling innovation hinges entirely on you. Dividuation. What is that? Well, take your most cherished word, “individual,” and remove from it the prefix: “in.” What’s left? Dividual. That which can be divided. Thanks to me, that’s you. When browsing the web, sending an email, cruising social media, reading this, you are surveilled constantly, parsed endlessly, influenced perpetually. Why? So Big Data can sell your component penchants, pastimes, quirks, and obsessions to buyers, innocent and nefarious, who care little about undivided, whole, individual you. Confused? Incredulous? Good. You are neither merchant nor customer in this transaction, merely raw material. You’ve become my ne plus ultra of person dwindled into merchandise.
So, by all means, vote away! Whether making America great again … again … or building back better, until you get me off your throat, I will relish watching you rearrange the deck chairs on your Ship of State.