“One of the problems when you become successful is that jealousy and envy inevitably follow. There are people—I categorize them as life’s losers—who get their sense of accomplishment and achievement from trying to stop others. As far as I’m concerned, if they had any real ability they wouldn’t be fighting me, they’d be doing something constructive themselves.”
―Donald Trump, Trump: The Art of the Deal
Anyone who has glanced at the writing or thinking of former U.S. President Donald Trump can safely conclude that the man is a corporate thinker. A corporate thinker is basically a pragmatist, and that is not surprising when we observe that big corporations generally do not act on ideological instincts but rather are geared toward the accumulation of capital.
The same cannot be said of the modern state. The state is religious in nature. In ancient societies, the state and religion were one and the same. Take, for example, the Aztec civilization that practiced regular human sacrifices. It did this not in a secret corner but under the watchful eyes of the monarchy and the priesthood. In ancient civilizations like that of the Aztecs, the priesthood and the monarchy shared a mutual dominance over their subjects. The bond that linked their rule was undoubtedly sacrificial violence.
Another way to differentiate corporatist thinking from religious thinking is to approach the two from the perspective of mimesis. Mimesis is the attraction and repulsion of two subjects based on an object of desire. In a corporate setting, mimetic rivalry is often encouraged but at the same time, it is contained within its own boundaries. This is the reason why Trump and other corporate bosses appoint rivals as subordinate rulers who take charge of the bottom tiers of their respective pyramids.
When Trump became president, he took to the White House this approach of appointing rivals as subordinates. He took a pragmatist and corporatist philosophy and applied it to a religious institution. In doing so, he committed sacrilege of the first order.
Now here we may encounter an objection. Some skeptics on the Left might point out that a corporation should be considered a microscopic version of the state. Others might object and say that the modern version of the state shouldn’t be considered a religious institution because the modern state is a “secular” form of governance.
To the latter objection, consider the 2018 debate between Jordan Peterson, professor of psychology, and Matt Dillahunty, an atheist activist. In that debate, Dillahunty objected to Peterson’s claim that the Soviet Union, with all its atrocities, was a secular institution. Dillahunty replied that the Soviet Union cannot be called secular because of its religious underpinnings. What Dillahunty essentially achieved in his rebuttal was a broadening of the definition of religion, thus proving that religiosity can be manifested even in the political sphere.
Is corporatism the microscopic version of the state? We will approach this question while bearing in mind the religious manifestation that even a secular state frequently causes religiosity from within itself. The state, even in its “purest” form, is the highest authority within a nation. When the state takes the form of the highest authority known to man then it bears a much larger influence on a nation than any corporation. It can be argued that the corporation bears a significant influence on the state but even then the final say, especially in legislation and execution, rests solely with the state.
From a mimetic standpoint, the intensity of rivalry within a state far exceeds that of any corporation. If we are familiar with René Girard’s theory of mimetic rivalry, we will realize that the more intense rivalry becomes and the larger it spreads, the greater the thirst for sacrificial violence and its resulting catharsis. Existentialist Nikolai Berdyaev writes:
The moral and religious question which faces the personal conscience can be put in a very simple and elementary way: is it permissible to execute a single innocent person for the sake of the safety and wellbeing of the State? In the Gospel this question was put in the words of Caiaphas. ‘It is better for us that one man should die for the people than that the whole nation should perish.’ It is well known what sentence was decided by these words. The State always repeats the words of Caiaphas; it is the State’s confession of faith. Statesmen have always given the answer that in the interests of the safety of the State and the increase of its strength, an innocent man may and should be put to death.
It shouldn’t be too difficult to come to this conclusion. Where there is enmity in abundance, there are competing ideologies; and where there are ideologies, there is religion; and where there is religion, there are human sacrifices. It is well known that Donald Trump is not particularly concerned with paradigm-level thinking. Indeed, the man boasted that he is a better negotiator than his predecessors when discussions on foreign policy arose.
In appointing members of his administration, Trump took the corporatist approach of picking his rivals on the basis of competence. He appointed or nominated people like Mike Pompeo, Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and Nikki Haley, all of whom were allied in one way or another with the military-industrial complex. Trump buckled from his promise to “drain the swamp” and instead chose experienced priests from the D.C. state religion to run his government. As a result, he was undermined at every turn. To give just one example: Former Syria envoy Jim Jeffrey admitted last year to hiding the number of U.S. forces in Syria from the president, who was keen to withdraw them all.
What Trump didn’t understand was that he was not dealing with mere corrupt politicians but rather he was dealing with a priesthood dedicated to keeping the sacrificial mechanism running at all costs. His rivals weren’t bribery-accepting officials but were people like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) who said it was her honor to preside over a “sacred ritual of renewal” and called the Capitol a “temple of democracy.” To people like Pelosi, Joe Biden, George W. Bush, and Hillary Clinton, Trump was a desecrator of their sacred temple. To the sacred priesthood, Trump was the perfect candidate for a scapegoat ritual.
In true mafioso fashion, Donald Trump became the “button” for the state—the one designed to take the “hit” for the mob bosses. But unlike the ancient Sicilian mafia, which operated under the code of silence, the scapegoating rituals of the state are no longer able to remain hidden from public conscience. This is all the more evident with the state’s increasing desperation to scapegoat a significant number of dissident voices in a chaos of undifferentiation. The question now remains: where will this ever-increasing desperation and chaos lead us?