Tuesday, May 17, 2016



Can anything be learnt from his success?
In ‘Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence’, Karen Armstrong talks about the various ages of human civilization, that we have arrived in the commercial age after progressing through the hunter-gatherer age and the agrarian age. Armstrong mentions various leaders belonging to each of these phases of human development, from unknowns (because they were too limited in scope in the hunter phase), to Gilgamish, a noble yet tyrannical king during the agrarian phase who despite his nobility was said to have ‘savaged his flock.’ Given that trajectory the Donald appears to be an inevitable choice for the commercial age since surely it would be difficult to get more commercial than him. That of course is if you define commercial with its negative connotations, since there are those who have built multi million or billion dollar enterprises without losing a decent outlook on life, the Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburgs and Azim Premjis of this world, and others through whose hands great sums of money have passed but who retained nothing for themselves, like Edhi. But I digress.
Trump brings out various reactions in people, including sorrow, because his success is such a disturbing reflection of what the world values today.
Jon Stewart, who will be sorely missed from the “Daily Show” was recently interviewed by David Axelrod where Stewart revealed an altogether different face, and I don’t mean just the beard; Jon was more introspective and serious, although humour was never too far. Who else would describe the Donald as a ‘man-baby, with the physical countenance of a man and a baby’s temperament and hands’? Stewart observed that it says something about the Trump’s constituents that they find nothing distasteful about his assurance that although he is being immature now he will behave more maturely once he is President. If nothing else they ought to have found the assurance offensive because it is tantamount to saying that unless he, Trump behaves stupidly he cannot win their support. It also means that he’s willing to compromise on his values and promises when it suits him, that whatever his professed views now he will change them later. Truly, what does it say about a huge segment of society in one of the world’s most ‘advanced’ countries when its willing to support such a shallow man? If he says he won’t allow Muslims into USA and his support’s dependent on that platform, surely one thinks even less of him for offering to make an exception in Sadeq Khan’s case, or ‘softening his (declared) stance on barring Muslims from travelling to the US’ now or later.
This is a digression once again but I might as well make it: how do you decide who is Muslim (or any other faith) and who is not? I could profess to be a Muslim without having a shred of Muslim in me, and vice versa. Or does it mean that coming from Pakistan I must be Muslim? Any of those would be quite an assumption for an individual to make let alone an assumption the official policy of a country is based on. But let’s return to the previous argument, about expediently changing one’s views.
What would we think of Jinnah for example if after saying that the new country would be home for Muslims and non-Muslims alike he had murdered non-Muslims once Pakistan came into being? That is what we did, not Jinnah. We know, we are sure he would yell blue murder at our actions if he’d lived to see them.
So Donald Trump’s inconsistent and puerile and has no real convictions, but he’s just one man. The astounding thing is that all those people who support him live in what’s supposed to be an educated or at least a moderately educated society which is also supposedly be liberal. It’s enough to make one give up striving for a liberal education here in Pakistan. If education and being liberal can still produce this mindset, is it worth trying to change anything?
Yes it is worth it, but it is momentarily very discouraging. It only goes to indicate that something crucial’s missing whether in the definition or implementation of education and liberal – an important realization, so clearly even Trump has his relevance in the grand scheme of things.
It’s only now that Trump’s on the public scene that the redneck side of the United States stands exposed so completely, although no one doubted its existence. There are many American detractors in this country, but most of the time they’re ill informed, avid followers of tabloids, biased in more ways than one. They base their opinions on a second hand, a distorted perspective – even though it has some truth in it. But with Trump’s bid for Presidency, that red neck is visible in black and white. Complacency would now be a mistake. The bigotry and xenophobia can now be dealt with if the American people have an interest in dealing with it, proving that it’s always a good idea to bring an issue into the open. Like the Panama leaks, racism and sectarianism. It’s why one deplores a tendency to ban books, movies and television shows. If people are bigots let us hear about it. If they are racists, sexist, cruel, black hearted jerks we want to know so we can review our opinion, talk, argue, teach those things away if required. What is the point otherwise of democracy, of all this technology, of the liberal outlook and freedom of speech man appears to have won for himself?
That brings us to another point the Trump phenomenon presents: that freedom of speech comes with certain caveats. That makes for perhaps the hardest debate of all and one that is hardly ever likely to be resolved. But that’s possible fodder for another column.

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