Saturday, January 16, 2016

Memo to American voters: please do not vote for a giant soda fizz

In the nineteenth century, the theory that history consisted of the biographies of great men was prevalent. Thomas Carlyle, the British writer was one of those who espoused this perspective, and his view was supported by such thinkers as Hegel and Nietzsche. Even the Encyclopaedia Britannica contained the biographies of many considered by the compilers to have been "great men". On the other hand, the French equivalent of that compendium of knowledge refused to include such biographies, preferring a view of history that focused on the impact of a confluence of events, people, tides, trends, fashions and contemporary influences, known today under the umbrella of sociology.
Borrowing heavily from the "great man" theory, the entertainment industry of Hollywood has championed both the fictional attributes and accomplishments of super-heroes many of whom were dedicated to helping the less fortunate. The historical perspective of the Second World War held by many centred on the character and the charisma and the decisions of men like Winston Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, and also several of the military leaders whose leadership combined to achieve the victory still celebrated by the western allies.
Of course, that conflagration, including the often disputed significance of Hiroshima and Nagasaki's atomic bombs was waged to bring to heel another who obviously incarnated the "great man" theory, Hitler himself.
The Chinese, too, celebrate their history through the stories of such "great men" as  Mao Zedong and Russian history is chronicled in the lives of the Czars. The history of political development itself, moves from the chronicles of the "great men" like Solomon, King David, Kings and Queens and tyrants and dictators like Charlemagne, Napoleon, Caesar, to the more "democratic" persons and personas who have risen to power through garnering the "votes" of the ordinary people.
The interdependence of culture and individuals who exemplify specific time periods is today almost taken for granted, although people like James Hillman continue to focus their study on "biography" of all humans as central to any perspective of the meaning of individual lives. In an age of digital gathering and storing of mountains of detailed information, much time and energy is dedicated to the interpretation of such sociological data, much of that energy funded and supported by the corporations seeking to extract cash from our wallets and bank accounts.
Much scientific research is so esoteric and so far removed from the lives and the vocabulary of ordinary people,  that the names and the  biographies of the professional scientists, like Einstein,  and more recently, Jobs, and even the Freuds and the Jungs, and the 'stars' of each academic discipline and their respective theories and research often become the subject matter of doctoral theses for their acolytes.
Every professional sports team seeks to have or to develop a "star" as magnet for ticket sales, as the focus of their strategy, as the leader in their locker room, and as the "bar" of accomplishment for their ordinary journeymen and women to aspire to mimic.
Humans devour the stories of "celebrities" in whatever format they can acquire such details. In fact there is a monstrous industry dependent on the celebrity cult, begging for admission to the inner sanctum of "culture". Reality television is only one manifestation of a star cult, the product of the moguls who inhabit the executive suites of the networks, seeking the highest ratings for the least cost. Such exploits are, of course, dependent on the audience's voracious appetite for "association" with the "stars," some of whom have earned their "spurs" in real achievements like sports championships, or investment or research, while others are seeking their moment of fame through their participation on such "shows".
Politics too, in such an age, is inevitably attracted to, and  especially attractive for, narcissistic individuals whose ambition for stardom is boundless and is supported both by their own deep pockets, and the deep pockets of those who believe the can achieve a competitive edge by writing cheques to bankroll their political campaigns.
Into such a pre-set political, advertising, reality television and digital information age, in which people devour the latest tweet especially when it comes from a "name brand" and in which such professional profiteers (those few who have mastered the "art of the sale" and whose psyche is dependent on the sale of their own narcissism) feed that insatiable appetite, we are watching the phenomena of Donald Trump.
Margaret Atwood, after she achieved a measure of fame, wrote that she had become a 'thing' in a derisive and satiric depiction of the impact of her notoriety on her full humanity. Today, people who need the heat of the cleg lights, both literally and metaphorically, for their personal identity, could not care less about how they are sabotaging themselves by their participation in such a perversion of "debate" and the pursuit of policy through the acquisition of a power role like the presidency of the United States of America.
In a world so complicated and so interdependent and so precarious and so endangered and so seemingly unmanageable, and so easily "bought" following such decisions as Citizens United by the highest and presumably most "wise" agency in the realm, the Supreme Court (how ironic can it get?), the perfect storm, also the perfect "table" has been set for the inevitable and the predictable 'rise' to fame of an icon born and bred by the times. In some sense, Trump is a creation of the most imaginative and the most ambitious and the most amoral and the most acquisitive and the most debased movie-making machine, and the machine is both of his own making and of our's.
We are all deeply implicated in his dominance of the political theatre known as the Republican campaign for the presidency, and as the election campaign of 2016.
Is he a "great man" in the tradition of a Churchill, or a Roosevelt, or an Einstein, or even a Lincoln? "Of course not!" as the Penny of "The Big Gang Theory" would say to Sheldon when asked if she understands the meaning of "homeostasis". Does Trump even have the potential to be a great man, in the tradition of a Ghandi or a Mandela, or even a Kissinger? There is nothing in the evidence available that would hint at the validity of such a comparison.
More appropriate comparisons would point to a Schwartzenegger, or a "Rocky", or a fictional Batman, worthy of generating a short-term "fix" of excitement and entertainment, but lasting and nutritious as a giant soda, filled with sugar and gas, and banned by the former Mayor of New York in a worthy campaign against obesity, diabetes and inevitable death.
Politically, the United States is in danger of gulping a giant "soda" with the word TRUMP baked into the bottle. And from a strategic and a geopolitical perspective, the dangers are comparable. There is nothing more than "fizz" in the bottle, neither a thirst quench nor an energy boost; neither a reasonable and debatable policy offering nor a legitimate strategy; neither a leavening wisdom nor a history of dependability; neither a vision of peace and security for the planet and all people nor an acceptance of the diversity and the potential of all humans.
And this bottle of fizz, if inflicted on the country, and consequently on the planet and its people, can only foreshadow more geopolitical disease, conflict, rising temperatures, deeper droughts, more violent storms and more bombs everywhere.
The world watches and waits, deep in the hope and the prayer that, if Winston Churchill's insight is still valid, "The Americans will always do the right thing, after they have tried everything else"  the campaign of dangerous delusion and angry venting will give way to the more sober, more mature and more measured decisions, by millions of voters. The country, as the president continues to underline, has regained much of the honourable reputation it lost under Bush-Cheney; the country has recovered considerably from a disaster inflicted by the same greed and the same narcissism that drives Trump; the country has other much more talented and qualified and much more mature and nuances, in both parties that "The Donald"....
And while there is considerable evidence that the entertainment world often foretells the future, we are deliberately and hopefully pursuing not a dystopia of ugly and ubiquitous proportions, but a path to a more equitable and a more collaborative and a more negotiable and a more balanced resolution of the many deep-seated interests that drive the world's existential agenda.
This is no time for "tasty and fizzy sugar sodas" and for short-term reality television diplomacy.
This is no time for racist and narcissistic and militaristic hard-powered orgiastic ejaculations of political nationalism: not on Wall Street, not in the Pentagon, not in the Middle East, not in Ukraine, not in Africa, and not in the White House or the Congress.
And neither fast-food, nor sugar sodas do not comprise a healthy political diet, in the United States, nor elsewhere, as in Canada, where another "sugar-soda" prime minister has just been elected, albeit much more circumscribed and much more insignificant on the world stage.

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