The presidential election 2016 was devastating in the fact that its result changed many people’s perception of the United States of America almost completely. It is no longer the “beacon of freedom and democracy” founded on the core belief in the “Enlightenment Project” as characterized by German philosopher Jürgen Habermas in his essay “Modernity – An Incomplete Project.” (He defined the major beliefs of the Project of Enlightenment” as:
faith in human intelligence and universal reason;
demystification of knowledge
human creativity, scientific discovery and individual excellence;
the use of knowledge, such as objective science, universal morality and laws, for the pursuit of human emancipation and the enrichment of daily life.)
In fact, this huge country seems clearly divided into two camps, judging from the electoral college map: on the one hand, more educated and perhaps wealthier coastal states and “big cities” mostly embrace racial, gender and class equality; on the other hand, the people of the middle and southern states currently left behind economically due to the dominance of knowledge-based industry in the US, seem to struggle to go back to the less enlightened time of the US instigated by Trump and his chief strategist Bannon who unabashedly claims “Darkness is good, …Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power” (The Hollywood Reporter).
This extraordinary event earlier this month made me think of Joseph Conrad’s “The Heart of Darkness” and a quote from C. S. Lewis: “That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended – civilizations are built up – excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and the cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin.”