In Spirit Blog

For awhile now I’ve wanted to take some time to analyze the Donald Trump phenomenon and near hysteria going on in the U.S.A., our dear neighbours to the south.  As of this writing, things have become so unbelievable that it seems the only way to make sense of it is to consider it a Trump parable, pun or wordplay of some kind intended to shock those seeing the story play out before their eyes.  Many of the worst excesses of western culture have been “Trumped” by the Donald himself, who is well aware of those excesses and is intentionally exploiting them to his advantage.  Two specific examples come to mind.

Visibility at all Costs

Perhaps the best illustration of this concept is Kim Kardashian and her extended family who despite having no discernible talent or ideas to contribute to society have bombarded us incessantly with their presence.  Their TV show “Keeping up with the Kardashians” is simply an electronic invasion of their entire lives for no purpose other than to look at them.  This is complemented by other information channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and print media to the point that mass saturation is achieved.  The objective is simple – Trump ParableStay visible at all times and at all costs, even if you have nothing of value to offer.  It  doesn’t matter if you say or do something offensive or distasteful, in fact this actually furthers the objective since the outrage generated fuels the desire to look and keeps them in the spotlight.  It is very similar to the car accident scene phenomenon on passers by.  Nobody really wants to look but everyone is compelled to anyway.  This is the brilliance of the Kardashian empire and I suggest that Donald has simply observed this and “Trumped” it.

Fight a Bully with a Bigger Bully

This one is a little more nuanced and perhaps less obvious.  Over the past decade or so, it is clear that the ideas of the “left”, “liberal” or “progressive” segments of society have made great gains throughout western culture.  The label of this trend doesn’t matter so much as the impact and reaction within the culture and more importantly the change to behaviour within the culture.  Examples include the move towards:

  • same sex marriage and LGBTQ rights
  • environmentalism driven by the climate change movement
  • anti-capitalism in reaction to the 2008 financial crisis
  • multiculturalism and/or religious pluralism

In all cases the pace of change over the last decade has been breathtaking.  In western culture at the beginning of the 21st century, who would have guessed that two people of the same sex could legally marry, business projects would be shut down in favour of saving the planet from an environmental catastrophe that could happen or all faiths (or no faith) would be on an equal philosophical playing field (or Christianity would be defending its legitimacy).

While all of these developments are worthy of their own deep discussions and perhaps debate, what is interesting is a growing and troubling undercurrent that has come with the changes.  It is no longer culturally acceptable to legitimately question or oppose these movements or the ideas within them without being slapped with a label of bigot, phobia or denier.  This is not an issue about whether any of these ideas have merit or not but the fact that reasonable discussion and debate are silenced with bullying tactics of isolation, name-calling and sometimes violence.  This is profoundly disturbing and as is always the case produces fear and a reaction from those who are bullied.

Enter Donald Trump.  Many will remember the silliness of our childhood with the “My Dad is tougher than your Dad” mantra or responding to a threat of violence and intimidation by finding someone to respond with greater violence and intimidation.  Fighting a bully with a bigger bully.  Donald Trump is the bigger bully who has found a large group of people who feel bullied by the progressive/left/liberal segment of society and he’s the guy to fight back or “Take America Back” from them.  Unfortunately, this was entirely predictable.

Repeating Mistakes

One of the things I observed in my earlier years was the feeling of absolute certainty of the rightness of the causes championed by the conservative, religious right.  In fact, while I would never consider myself a big part of that movement at the time, I was definitely involved.  A key trademark of this mindset is the complete certainty of the “rightness” of a given position and also the intolerance for a differing opinion on whatever is the subject at hand.  This is now occurring at every level – nations, cities, neighbourhoods and even within families.  The progressive/left/liberal segment of society is now repeating the same mistake of those they have opposed.

A better way would involve mature people discussing and debating issues of great importance to them, their families, cities and nations rather than by bullying or worse yet by only consuming through social media.  When that is no longer possible, more extreme action is then invoked to promote the opposing point of view.  Combining that with the toxic, narcissistic behaviour exemplified by the Kardashians and now well entrenched in western culture, we have the Donald Trump parable to hopefully shock us to attention that there is a better way.  Of course, if the parable is extended to President Trump, the shock may be a little more than we are all prepared for.

Where are you being “Trumped”?

John Matthews

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