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2 min read

On Brokenness

The contradictions in our age of populism.
Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem
Destruction of Temple of Jerusalem (1867) | Francesco Hayez

Dominic Cummings is someone I have little interest in personally - I feel it is not healthy to contribute to his ego. However, I share with him a deep-rooted frustration with our media, politics, and civil institutions.

Our establishment has little incentive to cater to the public, yet operates under the guise that they represent us. We are confined to processes we cannot escape or even conceivably understand. Irrespective of what we do, it is if the world changes beyond our control.

Where I think we disagree is that society is not in a state of collapse or end times. The promise of a new dawn is simply the world churning a new version of itself. The best response is to look to the failures of previous iterations.

Newhouse describes the initial hopes of political upheaval Brokenism well:

The most vital debate in America today is between those who believe there is something fundamentally broken in America and that it’s an emergency, and those who do not.

Yet, reading further - I am quickly reminded where this underlying alienation leads.

That’s how you get left-wing guests on Tucker Carlson, and lifelong members of right-wing royalty making frictionless transitions into mainstream darlings. Marxist thinker Adolph Reed is a brokenist; Cass Sunstein is a status-quoist. Resistance Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Never Trumpers like Liz Cheney—these people are status-quoists. Bernie Sanders and Elon Musk are brokenists, as are the famously leftist Glenn Greenwald and the famously capitalist Marc Andreessen

The media's embrace of these personalities represents that it is impossible to form a coalition of agitation without making unfriendly friends. It also illustrates how much of the politics of frustration becomes misdirected. To make worried people believe that people making good are no different from grifters.

This popular conception of Brokenism minimises people's legitimate frustrations as a cultural facade or media performance. The guise is no different to the many failed counter cultural movements that became consumption fads. To confuse the angst of Elon Musk or Tucker Carlson as a proxy for genuine social reform lead us nowhere.

For Brokenism to suceed it needs to recognise we will always be capable of failure. Genuine frustration of power should be unafraid to challenge itself and its goals, especially when it's difficult. It must mean something more than selling people the lie that it is possible to build a new society simply by ignoring the rules of the old.

Our legitimate vulnerabilities and frustrations leave us open to scams and falsehoods. This deception is what we should be angry about - the cruel abstraction and indifference of our institutions. Our anger must be well-directed.

Thinking the ends justify the means is the problem Dominic Cummings faces. He sees what he is doing as outside of the system and so is justified. But what he doesn't see is that he has become what he proclaims against, the new system, creating with it the same flaws and contradictions as before.

It is ok to feel frustrated. But we can't forget that this hurt can be exploited for others' personal and political gain. We can't let them do that. Things are broken, but they can always be capable of getting worse.