Thoughts as 2017 Fades into History

Chaos and Hope
Chaos and Hope


Has 2017 been as horrible a year as our mainstream media has painted? Impossible to tell given the unmourned demise of “journalistic” veracity, never all that healthy a concept anyway, at least on the level of social phenomena related to governance. Ahhhh, “governance”, the use of a purported monopoly on force to compel massive obedience to norms regulating human interaction. Doesn’t sound all that pretty, certainly not as pretty as “patriotism”, but the reality is that every law is an infringement on liberty, whether imposed by common consent or by an arbitrary autocrat. Chaos is the alternative, chaos, the ultimate inchoate where everything is possible but nothing is likely, the time before time and place before space. One sometimes wonders after years like 2017 whether chaos has gotten a bad rap or whether chaos is in fact where we really reside.

Individually, in the area of close interpersonal relationships among family and friends and coworkers and among students, the 2017 rhetoric may have been sharper, tolerance reduced, probably a manipulated reaction to outside sources. Identity politics having failed in the prior year’s elections in the United States, efforts to impose them have increased massively and thus, group relationships have been estranged through strange perversions of pseudo logic. Racism sharpened in the name of reducing it, the same being true of xenophobia and sexism; violence extolled in the name of peace, intolerance in the name of liberty. As ever, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, the powerful accumulate and distill their power and “We the People” keep on making the same now traditional electoral mistakes, driven by induced fear of compatible boogeymen and bogeywomen. We rarely vote for anything but instead, against strawmen and straw-women, against straw-issues to avoid straw-crises. Perhaps “straw” needs to be elevated into some kind of national symbol, perhaps even a modern human archetype.

Of course, given recent context in this millennium, just how different has 2017 been? Perhaps, given the continuing rampant state sponsored terrorism we describe as the War on Terror and the War on Drugs and the reality of our consumerist driven social mores and our hypocrisy with respect to social and societal responsibilities, 20017 has not been much different from almost every other year of this millennium, one which we ethnocentrically refer to as our third, although as a species it is probably far beyond our thousandth, unless, of course, the Abrahamic religions are correct, and we are merely ending our sixth, or perhaps starting our seventh.

The solstice is over and thus, a real new year has started. January 1, a purely occidental construct has absolutely no cyclical temporal or spatial relevance other than inter se. But cycles seem important to us for some reason, a species wide constant. Thus we have recently, very recently, started a new annual cycle.

Given recent events, this “new cycle” will probably be another cycle of hypocritically-hyperbolic-hysteria, the three “H”s that characterize the failure of the experiment in participatory governance we call democracy, a concept now popularly “pejorativized” (apparently a neologism) as “populism” by those who would rule us regardless of our collective will. Populism can thus be defined as a synonym for participatory governance where majorities actually exercise their own will rather than echoing the will of elitist puppet masters. The questions then become on the one hand, whether the elitist puppet masters are benign and correct, and, on the other, whether, in rejecting them, the People have acted wisely or foolishly. Perhaps an even more meaningful question might be who answers the prior two.

Interestingly, in the United States, the political conglomerate of special and divisive interests that operates under the collection of legal shells referred to as the “Democratic Party” have made it clear that the central element of their philosophy is that the elite puppet masters know best and that the People cannot be trusted with independent volition, thus “populism is evil and must be eradicated. Somewhat ironic at best, and of course cynical in light of the meaning of their chosen moniker. Their purported opposition, the somewhat more naïve but straightforward political conglomerate of special interests that operates under the collection of legal shells referred to as the “Republican Party” or “GOP” (lest we forget, the acronym for Grand Old Party though it is by far the younger of the two), either appears somewhat more respectful of participatory governance or more sure of its abilities as an elitist puppet master. In both cases however, sadly for us, the policies both “major political parties” espouse are virtually identical, economic neoliberalism and international neo-conservatism, in both cases premised on a firm belief in inequality, agreed upon under the phrase “American Exceptionalism”, a synonym in a different context for the Nazi concept of an Aryan master race and the Zionist concept of a chosen people. Interesting company we chose to keep.

I wonder if, had they sentience, cancer cells might feel the same way as do our elitist puppet masters. Perhaps they do. What might our society be like if we treated our political cancer the same way we treat its medical variant?

Something to consider as 2017 gratefully fades away, now wearied and old and glad to be rid of us and our constant bickering.

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2017; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia although he has primarily lived in the United States of America (of which he is a citizen). Until recently he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at or and much of his writing is available through his blog at

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