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.

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.