Why American Fascism is Back, and More Dangerous Than Ever – by umair haque

You don’t have to look very hard to see it. Marjorie Taylor Greene comparing wearing a mask to… being exterminated at Auschwitz. The House GOP Leader blocking a commission to investigate the coup on Jan 6th. Trumpists running for secretaries of state in swing states — to block next time’s vote. A fake “audit” in Arizona — based on the belief that the election was “stolen” — run by a company called “Cyber Ninjas.” NOTE: SERIOUS ADULT BEHAVIOR HERE.

Trumpism is having a renaissance. That might be an unlikely choice of word — but it’s precisely what’s happening right about now. A rebirth, a renewal, a reinvention. It’s hardening, escalating, and retaliating — in fury, violence, and rage, growing more organized, sophisticated, delusional, and authoritarian by the day. It’s commitment to the project of turning America into a fascist-theocratic state ethnically cleansed of the impure of blood and faith has vastly increased.

Why? There are three reasons, which everyone should understand — in order to see what comes next.

After the coup attempt of Jan 6th, I warned that unless Trumpism’s back was broken swiftly and severely, this is exactly what would happen. It didn’t take a genius to see that, by the way. Just a basic understanding of how social movements — or bullies — work. Why did I say that?

The first reason Trumpism’s having a renaissance goes like this. Because it can. The Democrats have not moved swiftly enough to break Trumpism’s back. In fact, they’ve barely moved at all. Trumpists have risen to sinecures — well-paid gigs — in their own alternate universe. Stephen Miller, the architect of “family separation,” is a Fox New pundit. He should be on trial for crimes against humanity.

The ugly truth is this. The Democrats have let Trumpism have a renaissance. Many Americans won’t want to face that truth, but that only makes it all the more urgent. In what way, precisely? Well, after fascist episodes, what’s necessary is a special process of extraordinary justice. Think of the Nuremberg Trials. The reasoning behind them was that “crimes against humanity” had been committed — a new idea devised to do justice to fascism. These crimes were so repulsive they offended all of us, and the basic idea of our common humanity.

America needed a Nuremberg Trials the day that Trump left office. It still needs one. But such a thing is nowhere to be found, precisely because it’s off the Democrats radar. And thanks to a culture of incredible intellectual poverty — I’ll come back to that — the average anti-Trumpost American still doesn’t quite grasp that a process of extraordinary justice was necessary to have justice for extraordinary moments of social collapse.

But it’s worse than that — I’m putting it a little too kindly. The Democrats don’t believe in punishing the Trumpists at all. Biden said, famously, that he wanted to extend an olive branch, more or less, when he won the election — he called for “healing.” Those of us who’ve studied and survived fascism warned: this is exactly the wrong approach.

Why? When you offer fascists an olive branch, they take it, laugh, and use it to beat you in the face all the harder. To them, you’ve just proven what they always believed about you — that you were weak, gullible, foolish, spineless, In their binary worldview — ubermen and undermen, exploiter and exploited, predatory and prey — you’ve confirmed that you’re someone to beat up on, just like a bully will treat someone backing down from a fight. Biden made a huge, huge mistake. But can American liberals admit it?

All of that only raises the question, though — why did Biden make this huge miscalculation, offering fascists an olive branch, which they’d obviously take as a sign of weakness, and double down? Why didn’t the Democrats pursue a course of extraordinary justice, and try figures like Stephen Miller right down to the Trump family, for any one of an endless number of abuses of power?

That brings me to the second reason Trumpism’s having a renaissance. America only began to understand Trumpism was a serious neo-fascist movement committed to ending democracy far, far too late.

Today, you’ll read plenty of articles about how a new generation of Trumpists are even more dangerous than the first. And yet, even now, the dots aren’t connected by pundits. They don’t use the obvious parallels they should — the Taliban, ISIS, the Nazis. Why is that? Because American pundits a) believe in exceptionalism b) don’t know much about the world c) don’t know much about history and so d) don’t really have a good understanding of fascism in the modern context, or maybe any understanding at all.

American theorists and pundits don’t look at societies that have been hit by mass fascist movements — Iran, Afghanistan, Syria — and understand that this is now what’s happening to America. A social stratum — the working class — plunging into despair, as it imploded, turning to fanatical religion, ending up at the hands of scapegoats who pointed the finger at demagogues, and said that if society was cleansed, then all would be well again?

All that’s awfully familiar to someone like me who’s lived it. But to the average American pundit, living in comfort in a Georgetown townhouse, it’s sounds like science fiction. Only it’s not. It’s the precise and exact same process of social implosion at work.

But because America came far, far too late to an understanding of how dangerous Trumpism really was, an olive branch was extended to the fascists at exactly the moment they should have been on trial, behind bars, pursued by the long arm of the law.

Let me remind you, for a moment — sorry — just how all that went down. From 2016 to 2020, most of America’s pundits denied that Trumpism was a fascist or authoritarian movement at all. They’d regularly ridicule — if not abuse — those of us, like me, Sarah Kendzior, or Jason Stanley, or maybe you, anyone who warned of such a thing. According to the norms of politesse that reign in American elite culture, it was considered “alarmist” to call Trumpism fascist…while it was putting kids in cages in camps.

Those of us who’ve lived all this before? Our stomachs were turning, and we had to speak out, even if it meant paying a steep price professionally and personally. But the price we paid — I lost all my media appearances overnight (a blessing in disguise, I always hated playing the game) — was stark evidence that America just wasn’t getting it. Yes, this was fascism. Yes, it was doing fascist things, like building concentration camps and spreading hate and purging the government of dissent and punishing political enemies and calling the press the enemy of the people. Yes, it was going to culminate in an attempted overthrow of government — a hard coup.

In fact, that understanding still hasn’t dawned for many. American pundits and intellectuals refer to the events of Jan 6th as an “insurrection,” not a coup, to Trumpism as plenty of things but not a textbook neo-fascist movement.

You can’t punish a crime that doesn’t exist. Because even after Jan 6th there remained little understanding that fascism had come to America, an olive branch was extended — a spectacular miscalculation that let Trumpism metastasize, harden, escalate, to the point that now it’s openly plotting the end of American democracy by a thousand blows.

All of that brings me to the third reason Trumpism’s having a renaissance. Because America is a society having a classic, textbook fascist meltdown. What do I mean by that? A working class expects lives of plenty, comfort, security. Instead, they find themselves falling into despair, ruin, and poverty. You play by the rules — but you never get ahead. All you end up in, ever, is in unpayable debt.

Depression and suicide and other indicators of despair skyrocket. Social bonds are torn apart. A feeling of pessimism is pervasive. The idea that elites are out to get you, that you’ve been abandoned, that nobody cares about you becomes a cultural normality.

That’s the oil spill of pre-fascism. And all it takes to ignite it is a demagogue throwing a match.

A demagogue comes along, and blames the woes of the working class on the nearest scapegoats. They’re social groups even more powerless than working class, usually. The demagogue says: “cleanse society of these subhumans! They’re the wrongdoers among us! They’re infecting you, the true of blood and pure of faith, with their laziness, indolence, greed, and vice. Get them!!” Usually, the working class, at this point broken socially, mentally, intellectually, spiritually, obeys.

Is that the story of how Weimar Germany became Nazi Germany in the 1930s — or America over the last decade or so? It’s both.

Trumpism is having a renaissance, in other words, because America’s socioeconomics point to a fascist collapse as almost inevitable, certainly foretold. When someone like me saw, a decade ago, statistics like “the middle class is imploding” or “the average American dies in debt”, we shuddered — because we knew what was coming: fascism was.

Fascism isn’t the work of one person, and it’s not the destiny of history, either. But it is the result of large-scale, slow-moving socioeconomic forces, which have a momentum and power greater than most imagine. When what happens to America takes place — a working class left to rot, choking on its own misery, drowning in its own despair, clinging desperately to life on the detritus of opioids, Rust Belt towns, abandoned farms, decrepit lives — the result is usually fascism. By way of a demagogue who scapegoats the powerless.

These are socioeconomic laws. You cannot avoid them. You can’t bargain with them. You can’t escape them. Cause has effect. Abandon a working class, have a fascist collapse.

So the third reason that Trumpism’s having a renaissance is that America’s a country in serious and real despair. The anger and sense of betrayal of the working class is real. It has been misdirected at scapegoats — Muslims, Mexicans, Jews, minorities, gays — that’s true. But what comes first is the rage itself. And that comes from the structural collapse of a society — a working class sliding into oblivion, unable to fend for itself, desperate for anyone who believes in it, offers it the slenderest sense of worth or purpose or meaning or hope. When that only person becomes the demagogue — a figure like Trump — watch out: fascism has arrived.

Trumpism’s renaissance is an incredibly dangerous thing. Trumpism is hardening, escalating, and retaliating. It wants revenge, it’s getting better at figuring out how to get it, and it’s totally committed to the project of destroying democracy — the vast majority of Republicans now famously believe the election was stolen.

Where does that leave America? Out of time. This is its last chance. You know and I know that 2022 and 2024 are going to be brutal political contests. The truth is that they’re going to be worse than you probably think, precisely because Trumpism’s having a renaissance, which is growing in power every single day. Is it too late to stop it?

Wrong question, my friend.

The right one is: when is America going to even really begin to try?

Umair – May 2021


by Sean Kernon
Don’t be afraid to embrace your weirdness!

I never thought being weird would be helpful in my career. But after seeing avalanches of repetitive styles of writing on every platform I use, I’ve come to appreciate the strange stares and comments I got over the years.


I’m weird. I don’t say that to romanticize my individuality, nor to imply there are people tied up in my basement. It’s more a general off-ness — likely from having an eccentric, artsy mom.

Over the years, I’ve stopped fighting and hiding it and leaned into it. It’s funny how taking unapologetic ownership of who you are causes the jokes to stop. It’s analogous to that famous trespassing advice: just walk in like you own the place and you’ll be fine.

And this is a perfect segue into why you should embrace some unconventional writing tactics. I’ve been blessed with writing success. It’s not something I take for granted — but it wouldn’t have happened without these unusual strategies.

Going on a Walkabout
If you are walking in Tampa, at the right place, at the right time, you might see a goofy, tall blonde dude walking and gesticulating his hands in the air.

You’ll hear the birds chirping, the wind blowing. And as you get closer, you’ll hear me rambling like a crazy person. What you wouldn’t know is that I’m not usually talking to anyone. I’m talking into a recorder on my headset. I’m free riffing on an idea for an article. Monologing on a topic helps me improvise. It forces me to face that wall of mist where I’m out of preconceived ideas. It’s at this wall that some of your best creating happens. Don’t be afraid to live one sentence to the next, unsure of what is to come. Editing and deleting comes later.

I Let Writing Eat Other Writing
I have this long trail of empty drafts that now numbers in the hundreds. It’s like a huge colorful drawer full of mismatched socks.

Many of these “socks” weren’t quite worthy of their own piece. Many eventually become fantastic sections of an article and delivered the nice jab to a one-two content combination. Sometimes I patrol these drafts to see if combining the two, or meeting at a topic in between, would produce something interesting.

This process leads to some of my best ideas and high-performing content. Frankenstein your ideas. Rip out parts and attach them somewhere else. You’ll eventually be screaming, “It’s aliiiiiive.” Or be running for your life.

I Do Things in Reverse
First, I write my main points and intentionally write 1–2 more sections than I’ll actually need. Then I force myself to rank all of them and kill the stragglers. Then I find ways to bridge the connections and segway sections. Then I write the conclusion. Then, I write an introduction that doesn’t match the conclusion — but shakes hands with it.

Remember, simply moving your best sentences to the top of your document is one of the most underappreciated ways of editing. It reinforces a needed, cold-blooded editorial mentality.

A Creativity Exercise I Use
I sometimes pick the most boring topic I can think of and quickly write a few paragraphs to see if I can keep it interesting.

Often, it’s just a boring word I start with. For example, “dirt”. You could write about how it’s the source of all life. How it sits at the top and bottom of the food pyramid. How dirt is a slow-motion ocean for earthworms. How a warrior could throw the dirt in his opponent’s face in a fight. It’s open-ended.

The point is — if you can find a way to make a boring concept interesting, it’ll make the good concepts that much easier to write about. You’ll be more compelling. This is my favorite warm-up exercise.

Play God In Your Bedroom
I sometimes create a character or superhero that is really just an extension of who I am. Whatever your physical/mental strengths and weaknesses are — exaggerate them and build a character around them.

In general — most good characters have an element of the author within them. Any humor I’ve ever written that was funny had some element of truth.

Pick one little quirk or thought, then run with it and don’t be afraid to extrapolate it into another land. You can always trim it down later.

Use a Good Quote as a Soul
Sometimes if I can’t write, I’ll look at really famous short quotes, such as:

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
― Dr. Seuss

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
― Oscar Wilde

Then I’ll try to write something based on those quotes. Famous quotes are typically anchored in rich ideas. I sometimes tinker with them too out of boredom. It gets interesting. For example, Dr. Seuss’s quote gets kinda funny if you switch just two words.
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”


“Don’t smile because it’s over, cry because it happened.”

This highlights how it is only a small nudge that makes something different and more interesting. I live by the 80/20 rule of creativity. Aim to have your concept be 80% familiar, 20% unfamiliar. It is the mission to create the most original book or movie ever made that leads to massive flops. Star Wars was just an amalgamation of several movies, a blend of western, samurai, and sci-fi films.

Parting Words
Being weird is, by definition, a sign that you aren’t a cliche human being. So don’t fret if your thoughts and process are a bit out there.

I shudder when I hear people saying you should just rewrite what popular writers wrote. I’ve seen that tip on Quora, Substack, and Medium. It’s an editorial plague.

Stay unique and embrace your membership in this unholy club of misfits.


by Sara Novic

The harmful ableist language you unknowingly use….

Some of our most common, ingrained expressions have damaging effects on millions of people – and many of us don’t know we’re hurting others when we speak.

I like being deaf. I like the silence as well as the rich culture and language deafness affords me. When I see the word ‘deaf’ on the page, it evokes a feeling of pride for my community, and calls to me as if I’m being addressed directly, as if it were my name.

So, it always stings when I’m reminded that for many, the word ‘deaf’ has little to do with what I love most – in fact, its connotations are almost exclusively negative. For example, in headlines across the world – Nevada’s proposed gun safety laws, pleas from Ontario’s elderly and weather safety warnings in Queensland – have all “fallen on deaf ears”.

This kind of ‘ableist’ language is omnipresent in conversation: making a “dumb” choice, turning a “blind eye” to a problem, acting “crazy”, calling a boss “psychopathic”, having a “bipolar” day. And, for the most part, people who utter these phrases aren’t intending to hurt anyone – more commonly, they don’t have any idea they’re engaging in anything hurtful at all.

However, for disabled people like me, these common words can be micro-assaults. For instance, “falling on deaf ears” provides evidence that most people associate deafness with wilful ignorance (even if they consciously may not). But much more than individual slights, expressions like these can do real, lasting harm to the people whom these words and phrases undermine – and even the people who use them in daily conversation, too.

Not a small problem

About 1 billion people worldwide – 15% of the global population – have some type of documented disability. In the US, this proportion is even larger, at about one in four people, with similar rates reported in the UK.

Despite these numbers, disabled people experience widespread discrimination at nearly every level of society. This phenomenon, known as ‘ableism’ – discrimination based on disability – can take on various forms. Personal ableism might look like name-calling, or committing violence against a disabled person, while systemic ableism refers to the inequity disabled people experience as a result of laws and policy.

But ableism can also be indirect, even unintentional, in the form of linguistic micro-aggressions. As much as we all like to think we’re careful with the words we choose, ableist language is a pervasive part of our lexicon. Examples in pop culture are everywhere, and you’ve almost certainly used it yourself.

Frequently, ableist language (known to some as ‘disableist’ language) crops up in the slang we use, like calling something “dumb” or “lame”, or making a declaration like, “I’m so OCD!”. Though these might feel like casual slights or exclamations, they still do damage.

Jamie Hale, the London-based CEO of Pathfinders Neuromuscular Alliance, a UK charity run for and by people with neuromuscular conditions, notes that the potential for harm exists even if the words are not used against a disabled person specifically. “There’s a sense when people use disableist language, that they are seeing ways of being as lesser,” says Hale. “It is often not a conscious attempt to harm disabled people, but it acts to construct a world-view in which existing as a disabled person is [negative].”

Using language that equates disability to something negative can be problematic in several ways.

First, these words give an inaccurate picture of what being disabled actually means. “To describe someone as ‘crippled by’ something is to say that they are ‘limited’ [or] ‘trapped’, perhaps,” says Hale. “But those aren’t how I experience my being.”

Disability as metaphor is also an imprecise way to say of saying what we really mean. The phrase ‘fall on deaf ears’, for example, both perpetuates stereotypes and simultaneously obscures the reality of the situation it describes. Being deaf is an involuntary state, whereas hearing people who let pleas ‘fall on deaf ears’ are making a conscious choice to ignore those requests. Labelling them ‘deaf’ frames them as passive, rather than people actively responsible for their own decisions.

Ableist language crops up in the slang we use, like calling something “dumb” or “lame”, or making a declaration like, “I’m so OCD!”
Hale adds that using disability as a shorthand for something negative or inferior reinforces negative attitudes and actions, and fuels the larger systems of oppression in place. “We build a world with the language we use, and for as long as we’re comfortable using this language, we continue to build and reinforce disableist structures,” they say.

Say what?

If ableist language is so harmful, why is it so common? Why might someone who would never purposefully insult a disabled person outright still find ableist expressions among their own vocabulary?

Ableist language as colloquialism functions like any other slang term: people repeat it because they’ve heard others say it, a mimicry that on its face suggests use is undiscerning. However, according to University of Louisville linguistics professor DW Maurer, while anyone can create slang term, the expression will only “gain currency according to the unanimity of attitude within the group”. This suggests ableist slang is ubiquitous because, on some level, the speakers believe it to be true.

It’s possible for individuals to be truly unconscious of these biases within themselves, and unaware of the ableism couched in their own everyday sayings. But the fact is, discussions about the negative effect of a word such as “dumb” – a term originally denoting a deaf person who did not use speech, but which now functions as slang for something brutish, uninteresting or of low intelligence – have been happening in deaf and disabled circles for centuries.

According to Rosa Lee Timm, the Maryland, US-based chief marketing officer of non-profit organisation Communication Service for the Deaf, these conversations have remained largely unexamined by the mainstream because non-disabled people believe that ableism doesn’t affect them, and ableist language perpetuates and justifies that belief.

“Ableist language encourages a culture of separation. It defines, excludes and marginalises people,” says Timm. She adds that this allows non-disabled people to be bystanders in the face of ableist culture infrastructure at large.

A boomerang effect

Although these words and phrases are obviously harmful to the groups they marginalise, non-disabled people who casually use ableist language may be negatively impacting themselves, too.

“What happens to this group of hearing, non-disabled people later in life – be it hearing loss, an accident, a health issue, aging or any number of things – when they transition to the disabled community?” says Timm. “The ableist language they used has created an oppressive environment.”

One of the most effective ways to move away from ableist language is understanding the disabled community, having conversations and listening to their concerns.

Timm notes this ‘environment’ includes an impact on their own self-worth. “Beauty standards are a good comparison, in terms of language’s psychological power,” she says. “As a parent, if I say, ‘wow, that’s beautiful’ or ‘that’s ugly’, my children see that and internalise it… This can have a profound impact, particularly if they examine themselves and feel like they don’t match the standard… The same goes for ability.

Hale seconds the idea that nondisabled people who experience disability later in life will be harmed by the rhetoric they use today. They also note that the divisive nature of ableist language can even have a negative impact on people who will never experience disability.

“It hurts all of us when we de-humanise ways of being, and construct them wholly in the negative,” they say.

Dismantling ableist structures

Given how ingrained ableism is in our society, rooting it out may seem an overwhelming task. Being aware of the words you use each day is a necessary step in the process. “Dismantling disableist structures doesn’t start with language, but building a world without them requires that we change our language,” says Hale.

Examining your own go-to phrases and attempting to replace them with less problematic synonyms is a good start. “Think about what you mean. Don’t just repeat a phrase because you’ve heard it, think about what you’re trying to convey,” says Hale.

Often avoiding ableist euphemisms just means choosing more straightforward and literal language – rather than “fall on deaf ears”, one might say “ignoring” or “choosing not to engage”.

Language is ever-changing, so eliminating ableism from your vocabulary will be an ongoing process rather than a static victory. You may stumble, but checking in with disabled people is an effective way to find your footing and continuing to build a more inclusive vocabulary. “My advice is always to listen,” says Timm. “Ask questions, avoid assumptions, and start by listening to the people who are impacted the most. Think about whether your own word choice is contributing to their oppression.”

It may feel uncomfortable, but discomfort and vulnerability necessitate introspection, which Hale points to as keys to dismantling ableist attitudes. “According to [disability equality charity] Scope, two-thirds of the British population feel uncomfortable talking to a disabled person,” says Hale. “Why? If you can work out why you’re uncomfortable, you’re well en route to changing it.”


by Sean Kernan

These programs will help put your editing and content production on track.

Picture a woman writing marker notes on a glass door with post-it notes around it.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that writers have no use for tools or gear. I make my living writing and spend hours at the keyboard. I’ve found a great set of software and equipment that I still use every day.

The best writing tools are the ones you enjoy using and that are built to get things done quickly and efficiently. If you are serious about becoming a professional writer, it’s worth considering the following options.

Capturing and saving ideas for later

My best articles are usually the result of ideas that seemingly fell out of the sky. I can’t replicate how it happened. It feels random and it’s frustrating. I’ll agonize to myself, “Why can’t I think of a funny idea like that one from earlier?” I do know ideas come from a certain mode my brain gets into. I have a terrible memory and have found it’s of absolute, paramount importance to write down even mediocre ideas. They often evolve into better concepts.

I use a free sticky notes app on my phone. One sticky is just for random ideas. The other stickies are categorized for specific articles. I find that ideas surface when I’m doing something repetitive and passive, like walking, or cleaning. There’s also a voice-to-text feature that is good for jotting ideas if you are bad at writing on your phone.

Programs for writing articles

Grammarly is still a valuable resource for typos. The premium version justifies itself and sends you wordcount recaps each week to track productivity. I’ve also found one trick with their corrections. If it is trying to correct a phrase or word that isn’t actually a typo, that often means your wording is a bit foggy and inefficient. Consider rephrasing the entire sentence.

Grammarly won’t catch everything. You’ll still need to read the article out loud to maximize your editing. I’m introverted and don’t like talking a lot, even by myself. I lose my voice easily and get a sore throat. I often use text reading software, such as Natural Readers. I’ll put this in one window, paste my article in, then follow along making edits while it reads my article to me.

Help for writing and ghostwriting books

I’d heard so many polarizing opinions about Scrivener. People either despise it or can’t live without it. I’m a bit old-school and thought deviating from Word was a fool’s errand until I found myself on a project I couldn’t wrangle.

I was ghostwriting a novel for a high-paying client. I was getting input from so many different sources: friends, exes, bosses, employees. Every conversation was more chaotic than the next. I was left scratching my head thinking, “How in the heck am I going to string this together?” People assume that ghostwriting clients come in and know exactly what they want for their book. The truth is closer to, “I’ve had a cool life. I want to share it with everyone. You can write it.”

A writer told me the signature benefit of Scrivener: organization. You can separate your writing out into modules and sections and have all sorts of notes. This became unbelievably helpful while I was dealing with the chaos. Scrolling through a hundred pages of random stories was unsustainable.

Article and content imagery

Initially, I was using the popular royalty-free images on Pexels and Unsplash. The problem with these images is that they are common. When readers see the same image they’ve seen over and over again, they glaze over and move on. If you can’t afford to buy your images, I strongly recommend you scroll further down before choosing your image. The images at the top are often overused.

If you can spend a few bucks, I strongly recommend using iStock photos or Adobe Stock photos. I love having access to images that most people don’t use. The pictures are considerably better and more tasteful. It’s also a tax-deductible expense so it makes sense.

Office equipment and extras

I’m a rather tall guy and don’t like scrunching up so I bought an adjustable desk, PC, and giant monitor to write on. The idea of spending all day on a laptop makes me shudder. I also have great hardware on the computer so that I can run multiple tabs and programs while I write. Investing in a solid-state drive will make any computer instantly faster than you thought possible. There’s no reason to have a computer that sounds like a lawnmower as it groans to open a new chrome tab.

I also bought a very comfortable chair that helps my posture. Everyone’s body is different, but you should be considering your physical comfort while writing. Hunching over a laptop on your couch isn’t a way to live. If you have a backache while working, something is wrong. Much of this has to do with head positioning. I love having a massive monitor that is right at eye level so I’m not looking down or up and signing myself up for pain.

The key takeaway is that you should be mindful of the programs you are using while you write. There are very real ways to make your writing better and more efficient. Ultimately, your ability to continue writing, stay critical of your work, and get feedback from others will determine your success.

But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the value of extras.


Going Back to “Normal” In a Broken Society Was Never Going to Be Good Enough
by umair haque

Kids are pretending to die in an “active shooter drill,” as men with guns pretend to kill them. I bring it up because America’s had another shooting. That’s two in two weeks. That’s six so far this year. Things are going back to normal, my friends tell me. I don’t want to say what I think back to them: normal in America was already dystopian. And now, perhaps, you see the flaw in the logic of “things can just go back to normal.”

America is a deeply unwell society. What was “normal” — before the overt fascism of the Trump years? School shootings and mass murders. Kids having to pretend to die as masked men burst in and shot them with blanks — “active shooter drills.” Can you imagine what it does to a kid to have to pretend to be shot? To die? Then there was the “student debt,” the “medical bankruptcy,” people begging strangers online for money to pay for bills. All that was normal.

But a society like that is not normal. It’s just that all that has been normalised in America. What is all “that,” though? I want to explain it in a different way to you.

When my European friends visit America, or live there, or when I return to America, having lived so long in Europe, what strikes us is this. How mean and cruel and brutal American life is. American culture is. In Spain and France, friends — or just strangers — will greet each other with kisses and an embrace. That’s not some kind of pointless anecdote. There is real human warmth in these cultures. In America, it seems to have gone missing entirely.

Nobody is really friendly in America. I know they think they are, but they’re not. Americans don’t seem to know what is to be gentle, warm, kind. Hug and kiss an American and they’d probably think you were crazy, or maybe try to shoot you. Go to the store, the airport, school — anywhere — and simple social interactions are bizarre, dehumanizing, alienated things of people barking orders at each other. To Canadians, Europeans, Asians — literally the whole world — this way of being is deeply bizarre.
You can feel anger and rage pulsing through America like a shockwave. If you’ve lived elsewhere.

Nobody will be nice to anyone, really, kind, gentle, warm. It’s exhausting, wearying, depressing, if you can sense it. Americans have mostly lived no other way, so they can’t. But if you have — it shakes you. The aggression and hostility of American life is omnipresent — literally everywhere, inescapable, ubiquitous. At school, at the workplace, at the university — thanks frats — at the office, in church. There is nowhere you can go in American life to escape the shockwave of aggression surging through it.

Why do I bring all that up? Am I just condemning Americans? Of course not. I am diagnosing a certain kind of social illness. Rage.

It’s true that guns are a big problem, and I’d never want you to think that I’m not on the side of gun control. Of course I am. But beneath the surface of guns, there is a culture of omnipresent aggression, brutality, cruelty. That has resulted in a culture of rage.

Where do you see the culture of rage? Where don’t you? Turn on the cable news, and you’ll see talking heads screaming at each other. American pop culture is movies about death on an epic scale and video games where people just kill each other. Am I saying movies and video games are to “blame” for mass shootings? Of course not. But I am saying so much rage and anger and violence are signs of a deeply unwell society. In a very precise and technical and formal way.

What is it that makes American so angry, so aggressive, so hostile, so cruel? Why is it that that’s the very first thing anyone not from America notices — and why the world, for example, rolls its eyes at American tourists?

What’s immediately apparent to anyone from elsewhere is that Americans have reduced each other to commodities. In Europe or Canada, life is completely different. Schools are not just little arenas of violence, where kids are encouraged to compete brutally, for sports trophies or grades. The result is that there is less bullying — and far, far less violence like school shootings. The workplace isn’t like a prison — a place you have to go to have healthcare and retirement — because of course everyone already has those basics. University isn’t dominated by the stupidity and ignorance and violence of fraternities. Profit isn’t the sole motive of every aspect of human existence.

I could go on endlessly. The point is this. Take the example of going to the store. In America, you can go to the same Starbucks forever — and never know a thing about anyone who ever works there or goes there. That would violate a social norm. In Europe, you can’t not be friends with people, at least if you go to your neighbourhood bistro or cafe. That would violate the norm. American life is completely atomized, and because it is atomized, it has been dehumanized. What does that lead to?

America is a society that has undergone an almost complete process of social disintegration. Social bonds are almost entirely nonexistent anymore. Way back in the 90s, sociologist James Putnam began documenting this startling collapse of social bonds, in his famous Bowling Alone. In Holland, the number of people who think that most people can be trusted is almost 70%.

In America, it’s half that: just 35%. And that almost certainly overstates the number, because people tend to be polite in surveys.

Think about that for a second. Just three people out of every ten in America trust the rest. But can you blame them? I can’t.

Think about American life for a second. What is it, if we really think about it? It’s an endless war, a battle, a life-and-death contest, that you have to wake up and engage in day after day, every day, your whole life long, just to have the basics. Want healthcare? Want a tiny bit of money? Want to be able to have a place to live and pay the bills? Then you have to go out there and compete with everyone else for a “job.” That means, in plain English, some morsel of pointless work, whose only real purpose is to make billionaires richer. And you don’t even get a fair share of that.

American life is a bitter, bruising, endless life-and-death contest. For things that people in every other rich country, and plenty of poor ones, simply give each other. Healthcare, medicine, retirement, education, income, housing, transportation, utilities. Americans have to compete with everyone else just to have a tiny, tiny share of those things. And if they don’t compete, they don’t get them, which means they’re left to die. If they can’t compete, or if they don’t win this game, even on some tiny level, again, they’re left to die.

Existence itself has become a battle in America. So who can blame Americans for not trusting each other? They are made to regard each other as adversaries, enemies, competitors, rivals. For the basics of life, whether money, food, water, or shelter. That is the way America is “institutionally structured,” which is a fancy way of saying “set up.”

But turning life into an endless life and death contest for the basics, where if you lose, you die — it has a price. When you’re forced to regard everyone else as an enemy, rival, competitor, adversary — they can’t also be your friend. Ally. Partner.

Sure, you can pretend they are — with that weird fake plastic mean smile Americans are famous for. But that’s just a game of make-believe. Americans are made to regard each other was enemies, so, unfortunately, they can’t be friends.

That is why America has undergone a process of social disintegration. That is why it feels so bleak and brutal and cruel. It’s why when someone like me or my European or Canadian friends visit or move, they feel alienated, weirded out, estranged. Nobody’s genuinely friendly, and everybody’s angry and cruel all the time, and strangest of all, they don’t know it.

What my Canadian and European friends are baffled by is this. Why do Americans live this way? All the things they’re made to compete with each other for aren’t really in short supply. They are just kept in a condition of artificial scarcity. There’s no real shortage of houses, or money, or work. It’s just that these things are kept artificially scarce, by America’s weird, failed systems. Hedge funds buy entire neighbourhoods and demolish houses — while Americans go homeless. Billionaires like Bezos and Zuck have all the money — while the average American lives pay check to pay check and dies in debt, just like a neo-serf. There’s no shortage of insulin — it’s just made cruelly, fatally unaffordable because corporations need to perpetually jack up their profits, into infinity.

Americans are made to live the way they do — a bleak, brutal existence of competition and adversariality — because their failed systems make them. In that way, America’s worse than the Soviet Union right now. The Soviet Union really did have shortages of basics. America doesn’t. Americans live this way — in a state of perpetual competition for the basics — because that’s the way they’ve been told is a good and just and noble way to live.

But it isn’t. The theory is false — the theory being more or less all of American economics, which basically says if we give people the basics, they’ll turn lazy and mean and violent and stupid. Not having the basics is what’s made Americans violent and foolish. Why? Because the price has been to destroy social bonds.

That might not sound like a big deal to you — “the destruction of social bonds” — but let me assure you, there’s little greater calamity a society can suffer. What is it called when I begin to distrust you? Regard you as an enemy? Someone who has to be vanquished?

America’s culture of rage has produced a hateful society. American society is so full of hate, it leaves the rest of us, who’ve lived elsewhere, exhausted and depressed, and plenty of Americans too. What do I mean by that? Do you really need more “evidence”? Weren’t the Trump years enough? How about two mass shooting in two weeks?

The first one, in Atlanta, was at the intersection of many kinds of hate — minority women were targeted. American life is permeated by rage and hate. And it spills over into violence. Real violence, like mass murder. All the time, over and over again.

And all that is because, at root, Americans live in a failed society, a failed state. Where artificial scarcities are used to control them. To force them into attitudes where everyone must everyone else’s competitor, adversary, enemy, not ally, friend, partner. Hence, America strikes the rest of the world — where friendship and warmth are norms, but in America brutality and cruelty are — as profoundly ugly and backwards and bizarre. It is.

I can’t think of any other society where rage and hate are as normal as they are in America, because people are made to compete, controlled by artificial scarcities — to the point that they are driven mad by them. Remember, we humans are deeply social beings. If we don’t have sociality — we begin to lose our marbles. And that is what appears to have happened to Americans. Not having sociality — true sociality — in society anymore, warmth, gentleness, friendship, has created the illusion that brutality, cruelty, selfishness, materialism, objectification, commodification, treating everyone else like something to be dominated, abused, acquired, discarded, are all normal. They’re normal in America, sure, but they’re not normal at all.

And when a society normalises dehumanization, brutality, cruelty, selfishness, isn’t it obvious to see how things like mass killings become, well, everyday events?

America’s a deeply unwell society. Americans still don’t really grasp it. They don’t feel how abnormal it is to live in a society where aggression and hostility are the only things that exist, because the only way people are allowed to regard each other are as rivals and enemies. All that’s normal in America.

But that, my friends, is why going back to “normal”

was never going to be good enough.