What do Trump and Putin have in common?

It’s now over a year since President Trump took office, and what a year it has been.  I argued then that perhaps his lack of orthodoxy might prove innovative in many ways and this, in turn, may prove of net benefit.

To some small extent, you could argue that this turned out to be true, in the case of North Korea.  But not in many other areas, either at home in the US or abroad though POTUS would claim otherwise.

What is obvious is that POTUS has undermined US influence worldwide as Trump has tried to emulate Putin as an authoritarian bombast.  Happily, the US constitution has mitigated against this but that has not deterred the president from tweeting his unruly thoughts that he obviously believes to be ‘tablets from the mountain’. (I will leave the psychological analysis for others more qualified.)

What Trump fails to understand that the USA is a democracy and leadership of a democracy carries inviolable demands including consensus and cultural respect and tolerance.  Trump has been just about restrained but he is leading his country into a dangerous direction of authoritarianism as exemplified by his pal Putin.

I guess that very few of those who voted for Trump have any idea of this, but this is a facet of populism which is oft ignored.  Many political regions of the world accept authority rather than democracy and it would be fair to say that liberal capitalism has much evil to answer for.  But beware authoritarianism as an alternative where, by and large, one election win, usually lasts a lifetime.

So now Trump and Putin are in this together, they believe they are the right leaders of their nations, they believe only they know the way.  I, for one, don’t share their views.

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Birdsong and banality

I have been off-watch for too long.  I have laid down my pen and sat back watching the predictable and the inevitable, hiding away as if it were nothing to do with me.  I’ve been ‘chilling’ with other fat cats avoiding the brutish northern weather, lazing my days around the pool and the bars and restaurants of lovely Hua Hin in Thailand.

Thailand is about one third down the economic street and seems almost entirely fueled by the tourist trade.  The Thais are very good at it, they are charming, polite and obliging.  The service is always excellent and given with sincerity and so it thrives.  One of the features of the Thai people is their handsome features and their diminutive stature.  We are less than charmed to see so many young Thai women with European men of considerably more seniority than the ladies.  I might be wrong and these guys are being sensible and generous sharing their money and time with young women.  Then again I may not and believe that here is an example of the economically well to do exploiting the poorer neighbor.

Last night as I sat with my wife we saw large numbers of traders selling all manner of things from counterfeit watches to sad little bunches of flowers.  The traders varied from healthy and confident to very young (almost babies) and some severely disabled.  Here was enterprise, here was exploitation, here was desperation.  In the hubbub it is easy to wave away the trader, to ignore the sad amputee, the tiny begging child.  The fat cats, like me, turned a blind eye and few of us found a penny for the poorest.  I felt saddened that here in the land of sunny dreams such poverty exists.  Despite this, the Thai people plough on, smiling and greeting more sweetly than any group I have ever known.

In the backstreets, the immensity of industry, as everyone aspires to make a dime is everywhere, from thousands of restaurants selling meals for a shilling or a dollar, traders selling shirts and textiles for next to nothing.  It is amazing the sheer ambition to survive through one’s own efforts. I am full of admiration for these lovely people.

In the mornings the sound of birdsong fills the air.  The birds of Thailand are strangers to me, but their song is a new and wonderful experience. So tuneful, so expressive so diverse, these lovely creatures wake us to a stunning dawn chorus the like of which I’ve never listened to before.

Being a fat cat is not so bad, and being here is a great privilege.  I hope my fellow travelers share my joys and sorrows.

 

 

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From Nobel Prize to Genocide. Please help!

Aung San Suu Kyi has stood by, whilst her military sidekicks murder, pillage and rape the Rohingya people in one of the great outrages of the twenty-first century and there seems little doubt that these actions constitute genocide. The deliberate attempt by the powers of the Myanmar Government, civilian and military, to eliminate the Rohingya people, and at the very least to have killed tortured and raped tens of thousands of men women and children in a planned and deliberate action that has so far has gone unpunished.

Everyone is being frightfully ‘correct’ even the Pope avoided the obvious and in so doing gave succor to ASSK and her rapist colleagues.  Wasn’t the example of the Nazi concentration camps enough of a horror for us.  Yet the world stands idly by while Rohingya are routinely burned to death, children are beaten to death and women forced to watch their men being murdered before they themselves are raped in front of their parents.  And the UN remarks that all this is ”probably” Genocide.

I am inclined to curse at this point. In the mane of mankind, there must be just- cause to rescue the Rohingya from the criminals who run Myanmar.  NOW! –  not sometime in the future when the perpetrators are brought to justice. (if that is ever to happen.)  The free world challenged Hitler and the axis powers, yet we stand idly by because the Rohingya have no wealth to defend, they have no voice at the tables of power, they have no rights because we all choose not to give them rights.

We should be ashamed, all of us.  Go shout at your political leaders to do something, and while we fill the Christmas stockings, children in Myanmar will see their daddies murdered their mothers raped and their siblings cruelly maimed.

Enjoy your Christmas, but please, please, be a nuisance and hound the hell out of those who maybe can shorten these days of carnage and genocide, even by a day.

 

 

 

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Counterpoint- looking in the mirror.

How racist am I?                  How welcoming am I to strangers?

Am I quick to anger?          Do I listen and hear what my adversary has to say?

Am I dismissive of those outside my social class?  Am I generous to those with less than me?

Am I mean?   Do I share with someone less well off, even a little bit?

Do I hold a grudge?         Do I forgive easily?

When push comes to shove do I care about anything except me?         Do I love, really love, someone?

These are some of the intuitive counterpoints we all carry around with us.  The problem we all have is keeping these opposites alive and to the front of our minds and hearts. Living in harmony with our fellow men is always a matter of degree.

We all have our prejudices, and we allow them to grow unchecked until they define us one way or another.  Is it time for us all to have a real look at ourselves and review the balance of our prejudices?

It is easy in cold print to see how we should be, have we the courage to see how we are?

Happy Christmas, have a happy day whoever you are.

 

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And still, I am blind.

Sitting in the sun, we watch the shadows where the world

scurries in the gutters of manmade cruelties.  Look away

and see the comfort of your insignificant self,

close your ears to the din of bombing and the screams of dying children,

soft, listen to the drone of mosquitoes killing nightly a household of despair.

Love your son and daughter but close your eyes to the brute next door,

looking inward and insulating the hollow of your warm nest.

The sun that shines on me bleeds on others who are not my brothers,

they are someone else’s shame,

locked away over the horizon of the night.  Come the morning and the blindness will still

be here, the scales of so-called love affixed firmly

so that I can see what it is I want to see.

My blindness sees the sunshine,

my blindness sees no darkness,

Yet, I know, I know and still, I am blind.

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Human horror. Shout for it to stop!

How bad does it have to get?  For the right to buy a machine gun the Americans are prepared to accept untold numbers of deaths.  It’s the Americans’ call.  However, the world watches as those poor Muslims from Myanmar are ethnically cleansed.  No one seems to give a damn.

I’ve already ranted on about the turncoat Aung Saan Suu Kyi, but I should also not forget those evil military leaders in Myanmar who actually carry out these atrocities.  The UN has called the issue ethnic cleansing but that hasn’t changed a thing on the ground.  Poor old Bangladesh which is one of the poorest nations on earth is doing its best to accommodate the massing refugee burden, and the poor refugees keep coming.

I feel like swearing in print, why weren’t we born as common flies surely we wouldn’t be so cruel and disgusting to our fellows.  The world is building aircraft carriers,  nuclear subs, nuclear warheads, sleeker aircraft and smart vacations spots for the rich and still the refugees march on through the miseries that are their lives.

Should we not be ashamed of our collective uselessness, our callous disregard for our fellow humans.  Shout!  Shout for it to stop.

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4th March 1789

That was the date the US Congress met in New York and issues amendments to the original Constitution of the United States.

The second amendment states:

“A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of  a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

The United States was in the throes of its beginning, there were only 13 states in the Union.  The war against the imperial power was won but independence was but 13 years old.  Anarchy reigned, though there was a huge amount of positive action by the founding fathers.  Although slavery was enshrined in the constitution it continued for many years to come even after the civil war of 1850’s.

The right to bear arms in a vast country in the throes of a great expansion and a violent political era certainly enhanced the case of that right.  Looking back it seems to make some sense.  The years that followed were violent indeed and for the best part of the next 100 years the United States was anything but united and an extremely violent place.

There were parallels in Europe where there were almost continuous theatres of war throughout the eighteenth century. Yet, here the populace was not armed to the teeth despite the almost continuous conflict and the angst after the treaty of Vienna in 1815.

So why today is the second amendment “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” so literally enacted to the point where mass shootings in Las Vegas have become the norm?

The figures are horrendous: Mass shootings: There were 372 mass shootings in the US in 2015, killing 475 people and wounding 1,870, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker, which catalogues such incidents. A mass shooting is defined as a single shooting incident which kills or injures four or more people, including the assailant.

School shootings: There were 64 school shootings in 2015, according to a dedicated campaign group set up in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in Connecticut in 2012. Those figures include occasions when a gun was fired but no-one was hurt.

All shootings: Some 13,286 people were killed in the US by firearms in 2015, according to the Gun Violence Archive, and 26,819 people were injured [those figures exclude suicide]. Those figures are likely to rise by several hundred, once incidents in the final week of the year are counted.

Is it that the American nation has evolved in a way where personal independence is paramount to the greater good? Is it that they are one hysterical bunch of lunatics that have created a national monster, at once a home of democracy but also the home of unbridled violence? Will they ever see that gun control in a civilized society is the only way.  The world is already overloaded with hatred, what we don’t need is a bunch of self-centred egocentric idiots shooting randomly at innocent people.

America leads the world!  It sure is a crazy place.

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