“I’m Haruhi Suzumiya, from East Junior High. First off, I’m not interested in ordinary people. But, if any of you are aliens, time-travelers, or espers, please come see me. That is all!”
Neon Genesis Evangelion is said to have captured the hearts of a generation of Japanese, but Japanese generations are different from American generations. The American millennials pondered over Evangelion, but the real message that spoke to them was that of Haruhi Suzumiya.
Why is Haruhi’s story so “melancholy?” Haruhi sees the world as a broken promise to her. Those who told her that life for its own sake is valuable were lying to her: she is just a single, meaningless body among the thousands cheering at the baseball stadium. The protagonist, her male friend Kyon, sees this with jaded eyes: “You can’t do anything about what doesn’t exist. In the end humans settle for what’s in front of them.” But Haruhi finds that answer unacceptable. That rejection, much more than Haruhi’s actual supernatural abilities, seems to electrify the protagonist. What is this thing that moves her? What does she know and what is she going to do about it?
This is the key to the lifeworld of American millennials. It is not that they were born into a time when life was especially difficult — although, as a simple fact of human existence, life is always difficult. It is that they reject as unacceptable the disenchanted society of “ordinary people” that was offered to them. Myths and legends whisper to them that life can be more interesting, more exciting, more lifelike than what the Establishment and System demand. There is something strange within us that demands change.
Kyon knows everything that Haruhi would need to know to change the world — we would say, in other words, that he’s “woke.” He has all the knowledge, she has all the power. But she has none of the knowledge, and he’s not allowed to tell her anything. The two of them, together, embody the ambivalence of the generation, including the new political movements both left and right.
In the alt right vocabulary, accumulated knowledge of dangerous facts is called one’s “power level.” This term is borrowed from Dragonball Z, where it straight up means the ability to do violence, but it’s applied ironically to intellectualism, the traditional weapon of the left. Some alt righters have discovered intellectual backing for what the left calls “anti-Semitism,” others for “racism,” others “sexism,” others “homophobia.” These dark intellectual structures, which were summed up in a clever way by Julius Evola (who I understand is kind of a meme now), give the alt right the ability to at least imagine a way to be different from “ordinary people”. The left elites, the holders of media power, fear this and thus attempt to cap people’s power levels. Haruhi Suzumiya doesn’t know her real power level, which is unlimited, but somehow she intuits that power levels should exist, and this is bad enough for society — so much that society spends all its resources trying to restrain her and keep her ignorant.
The alt right is embedded in irony — it’s intellectualism eating itself. It does not necessarily believe in Evolan ultra-right esotericism, but it plays with intellectualism as a silly game in the great mystery called life. If it is given freedom to move, nobody knows where it might go.
This is why the alt right is not actually about Donald Trump. Trump does not necessarily represent anything that millennials believe. What he represents is the surfacing of a true and honest testimony to the absurdity of the situation that millennials were born into, a world ruled by American Baby Boomers, the worst generation of human beings in the history of the universe.
Here is how the demographers William Strauss and Neil Howe portrayed Baby Boomer voting habits in 1997, 20 years before Trump:
Where G.I.s believed in The End of Ideology and the power of technocracy, Boomers are rediscovering ideology and the power of spirituality. Instead of the best and brightest, they would just as soon let a Dave or Forrest Gump rule. Instead of a New Deal Coalition, they’re building a Christian Coalition. G.I.s had a reputation as better doers than talkers, Boomers as the reverse.
Where the G.I.s’ midlife Power Elite included scientists and manufacturers adept at inventing and refabricating things, the Boomer elite comprise what Newsweek calls the Cultural Elite, a new Overclass studded with “talking heads” and “symbolic analysts” adept at inventing and refabricating thoughts.
Where G.I.s “ac-cent-tchu-ated the positive,” Boomers are constantly “going negative.” Defending against their attack ads has been shown to be futile; politicians who stay positive only get torn up worse. Where G.I. political adversaries used to be friends after hours, Boomer enemies are not.
Where G.I. voters have been habitual party loyalists, Boomers are slow to embrace candidates, quick to discard them, and disinclined to vote when uninspired. In the voting booth, they have leaned toward candidates who are preachers (Jesse Jackson, Pat Robertson) or apostles of gloom (Jerry Brown, Paul Tsongas, Pat Buchanan), all of whom fared poorly among G.I.s.
Trump is, as Michael Moore memorably put it, the “biggest fuck you in human history.” But the exact identity of those who need to get fucked is perhaps a bit of a mystery. Trump, born 1946, is the very definition of a Boomer. So for those of his generation who came out for him in a majority, those who were promised a golden future and didn’t get it, he is the champion who dares to wave the middle finger at the other Boomers who stole it from them — the clueless “talking heads” like Paul Krugman and the arrogant preachers of “collectivist” program like Hillary Clinton.
But for the alt right there is something a thousand times more glorious happening. The Baby Boomers are fucking themselves. Look at the above quote again. Trump is the Dave and Forrest Gump who the Boomers prefer to experienced politicians. Boomers “quickly discarded” Jeb and the other “serious” candidates. Trump, a source of seemingly boundless “high energy,” attacked rivals and critics so frequently, and so ludicrously, that it ceased to be news. This, too, is a Boomer trait— the alt right rarely reveals their actual “power level,” and in fact their shyness is a great source of self-deprecating humor.
The Baby Boomers shed their hypocritical skin of Clinton technocracy and showed the world what their generation is really all about. This feels, in some weird sense, like justice — James Kunstler aptly called Trump the “designated bag-holder” for a nation totally drained of public goodwill by the individualist Boomers. And Strauss and Howe, back in 1997, saw precisely how America would elect its God-Emperor:
Eight or nine decades after his last appearance, [around 2016] America will be visited by the “figure of an ancient man … combining the leader and the saint (to) show the spirit of their sires” […] Whatever the outcome, posterity will remember the Boomers’ Gray Champion persona long after the hippie and yuppie images have been forgotten to all but the historian.
Bernie Sanders could have been the legacy of the Boomers, the flower child aged into a saintly Gray Champion devoted to the commonweal. But they themselves, the self-contented Boomer elites at the DNC and in the news media, refused to allow this to be their final testament. The scorn of any true left-wingers among the Millennials belongs there. Meanwhile, Trump, with a narcissism so shockingly pure and invincible it must have been specially granted to him by God, is the true legacy of unchecked individualism, and in the coming crisis Trump will crush even the cultural memory of the hippies. The alt right rejoices, but its melancholy is not yet relieved.
Because the real battle has not yet begun. Trump’s presidency will not in any way resemble what will happen when power is handed to the Millennials.
What happens when Haruhi learns her true power level?
Posted: January 16th, 2017 | Japan