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The Donald effect
by Thanos Kalamidas
2016-10-26 09:29:18
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Is Donald Trump a phenomenon or a creation? And don’t limit ourselves in the Donald, similar caricatures have enter the political life of all the world violently the last two decades. In Europe it looks like a virus that effects one nation after the other. Ironically while we all compare all these Donalds to Hitler, we seem to forget that Hitler was elected in democratic elections and didn’t force himself in the German public life with a military or any kind of coup. We also forget that some of them today enjoy a strong popularity in their own countries, like Viktor Orban in Hungary or the new star in the pantheon of contemporary fascist leaders, Philippine’s President Rodrigo Duterte.

But let’s return to the Donald, since he is the one that monopolizes headlines at the moment and probably his contribution to contemporary situation is much stronger than the rest of his counterparts. We like to admit it or not, the Donald is changing the world as we know it doesn’t matter if he wins or not. With his attitude, his speeches, his example and the acceptance he enjoyed through the media and the Republican Party he has put fascism in the mainstream politics and social life of USA and not only.

tr01_400_03Yes it is embarrassing and insulting the way he talks about women but …that’s it. Nobody really does anything about it. It ends there, to say that it is insulting and embarrassing. You might want to say that he will be punished in the elections. No he won’t. The man will not be punish for his evil behaviour against women by not becoming President of the USA; actually nearly 400 million people in USA will not become President.

Physical and verbal abuse and harassment is illegal and punishable in the court of law; but not for the Donald. Donald can harass as much as he likes in public, in front of thousands of people or on national television. He can actually personalize his harassment going after certain individuals – even naming them - aiming specifically on their gender, ethnicity, colour or religion. Why these individuals don’t they sue him? But since the state doesn’t do anything, doesn’t act accordingly to its obligation to protect its citizens, how unprotected do you think these individuals feel? How much discriminated you think these people feel from their own country? Is like, nobody really cares, or even worst it is like they never cared and they legislated laws just for the show.

Regarding racism, discrimination and prejudice, there is only one thing Donald Trump hasn’t done publicly, to admit loud and clear that he is a racist. Everything else, absolutely everything else he has done it and he keeps doing it the last 30 years; in the public eye. But now he is doing it far more provocatively, from the privilege position of the candidate of the US presidency. And nobody of the ones who should react does anything. What do you think will happen to me if I go online and say half of the things the Donald has said the last 30 years? Let me see, Google will block me, Facebook will block me, tweeter will block me and most likely I will get a telephone call from a police station that they would like to see me for a serious personal matter. That while the official KKK newspaper endorses the Donald and everybody thinks that ….this is democracy. Is it enough the fact that Condoleezza Rice hinted that she will not vote for him or that Colin Powell said publicly that he will vote for Hilary? Do they think that they’ve done their duty to the American public, to their party and the American presidency they both served as the first African-Americans to serve in such high positions?

But again as most say, he will be punished on the 8th of November. No, he won’t. He won’t be punished neither for what he said nor for what he has created. A quick look at the social media is enough to realize what he has done. There people out there, a lot of people who commented his critics using the same phraseology and attitude. She’s too fat, too short for him. He barely walks, he needs a cane to walk how he dare talk like that about the Donald. They live in the “inner-city”!!! This is the latest trend from Trump’s side. The inner cities which translated into “stupid”, uneducated minorities, blacks, Latinos and Asians, with strong tendency to drugs and crime and easily manipulated. That’s how Trump and his followers describe urban population and nobody reacts seriously. No prosecutor, not the state. Both expecting an individual to do something. But again why should they when the state leaves them unprotected? The same time Donald weaponizes all these people who folow him with more racism, more prejudice, more hate. And this will be unleashed the day after!

There is no punishment for Trump the day after because the day after is already here and nobody is punished. What has happened is that America is changing to something scary and with America the rest of the world is changing. And is changing not because we have been undermining the growing Trump phenomenon, but because we have bee undermining our only weapon against fascism and now we live the consequences of our denial and failure.

After the WWII most nations realized that what partly made most Germans victims of a demagogue like Hitler was lack of education, information, freedom of speech and knowledge and most nations invested in education, in free information, in multiculturalism, in individuality, creation. The results became obvious in 1960s and 1970s, where despite the clouds of the cold war democracy thrived. Leaders that left a strong mark in history appeared and progress in many fields was obvious even in our everyday life. I’m not saying that these were better times, other problems raised, like inequality and new kinds of prejudice. Still, democracy, especially in the western world was winning and rightfully we could talk about the influence western democracy had to the rest of the world. The simple explanation, it was working and it was working because education was a priority. And remember that while the cold war was on its peak.

In 1980s and despite the fact that the cold war has ended education suddenly took a third, fourth and gradually non-place in our priorities apart of a constant whining about failed education systems. Stock markets gradually replaced universities, money, cool seaside condos and sports cars replaced books with life style replacing knowledge. Again, I’m not comparing or complaining. 1960s and 1970s had their own quarks which doesn’t make them better or worst. However the truth is that education, the right education not specialized or superficial education lost its value in the stock market of contemporary life and its needs. The consequences is something we live now.

Now people doubt vaccination and medicine believing that they intentionally cause problems, people now consider that landing on the moon was a myth, that airplanes spray us with control gasses, there are actually people who believe that the earth is flat and sadly I’m not joking. These very same people believe that women should stay in the house, obeying blindly their husbands since they are their owners and grow kids since this is their mission on earth, there are people who believe that they are blessed to own the earth, people who believe that they are the superior race, people who believe that the right belongs to the stronger or the one who carries the gun and coincidentally these very same people are the ones who have voted for Viktor Orban in Hungary, for Rodrigo Duterte in Philippines and want to vote for Donald Trump in USA.

Sadly if we want to fight the Donalds of today and mainly of tomorrow we have to start from grassroots and education, we have to start from the people who create and feed the Donalds of this world. We have to reinvest to education. This is our only weapon to defend our democracy.

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Emanuel Paparella2016-10-26 12:56:51
Indeed Thanos, there is no doubt that education has always been crucial to the delicate equation of a social just society and democracy. A genuine liberal arts philosophical education would have made us aware in the West that there is a great fall from the Socratic “knowledge is virtue” to the modern Baconian “knowledge is power” which sounds “enlightened” but it is not. If knowledge is power, then it becomes Machiavellian and instrumental for one’s narcissism and social aggrandizement, for one’s “life-style,” to be acquired and held at any cost and by any means. Democracy itself becomes instrumental to be manipulated for one’s hidden agenda, as indeed was the case with Hitler.

To my mind however, it remains doubtful that those millions of people who follow Trump are all despicable and deplorable people like him. He, like Duarte, Mussolini, Hitler, Obam, and many other “strong men” throughout history are merely taking advantage of a general discontent to which these despots have contributed and abetted and the weakness and ignorance of the republics and the democracies that preceded their entrance on the world stage, of a populist general discontent that suspects that the system is rigged, social and distributive justice is all but ignored, the rich get richer and the middle class and the poor go backward. Misguidedly, they now are deluding themselves that the very people who exploited them mercilessly and don’t even pay their fair amount of taxes for the common good, are now about to save them and restore the former greatness of their nation. Thanks for reminding us that once democracy has been undermined, nothing will make a nation great again. Both Plato and Jefferson reminded us that eternal vigilance (i.e., education) is the price of freedom and that a democracy without genuine knowledge (the one advocated by Socrates, not that of Francis Bacon) is ultimately a pseudo-democracy. Let's hope for the best but prepare for the worst...

Emanuel Paparella2016-10-26 13:44:04
P.S. It occurs to me that there is actually a middle position on episteme or knowledge, between the ancient one of Socrates (“knowledge is virtue”) and the modern “enlightened” one of Bacon (“knowledge is power”). It is that of St. Paul in his letter to the Romans: “I know the good but I see another law in my members…that opposes the good” It appears that Paul is saying that it is not wholly a matter of pure abstract knowledge; that knowing the good does not automatically translate into doing the good; that theory and practice need to be harmonized and synthesizes; that human nature is good but it is also flawed and we ingore such a reality at our own peril; the peril of romanticizing evil and making our monsters our pets. Christian doctrine, beginning with Augustine, calls that phenomenon “original sin.” Aristotle, by the way, wrote that virtue resides not at the extremes but in the middle. Plenty of food for thought here!

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