On the meaning of President-elect Trump

Well. President-elect Trump. So that happened.

Let’s take a deep breath and begin. This is going to be bad. Okay? Unpredictable, interesting, and even, on occasion, good, in the way that a stopped clock shows the right time twice a day. Enough has already been said about Trump’s character. He is not a good, well-balanced, well rounded person. Civilisation has standards. If civilisation means anything, it means having standards, and Trump does not meet those. He should not be President. He is going to be.

 

So what does it mean? What do we need to remember to understand this situation?

1. Let’s get this out of the way. With the election of Trump, America has effectively abdicated its role as leader of the free world. We cannot look to the USA for leadership because they clearly cannot sort out their internal situation and politics. They cannot run themselves; ergo they can’t run the world.

We have been looking in a de facto way to the USA to provide leadership for years. We can no longer expect leadership from America. We’ve got to grow up and sort things out for ourselves.

Perhaps a bitter pill, but the sooner swallowed, the better.

America has been an empire in decline for a long time and this election just seals it. Their internal problems are now so great they cannot lead the world. They can’t be trusted to. It’s a moral thing. If you can’t sort out your own shit why would we let you try and sort ours?

 

2. Trump is not to blame for the current state of the world.

There is so much that is messed up in our society and way of life. Trump did not cause these things, though he is a mighty symptom and emblem of them.

We (anyone likely to be reading this) are complicit in the way the world is today; and we did not get here overnight. For far too long we have remained idle and comfortable while other people suffered.

3. The Republican Party is more dangerous than Trump.

Tea Party Republicans are the real danger. If Trump hadn’t got the Republican nomination, Ted Cruz would have. He would be a far scarier President. Any other Republican with both houses behind him would be scarier than Trump.

Trump is a wild card. A dude who doesn’t know what he is doing. He started out running a protest vote campaign in the primaries that succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations, and his ego wouldn’t let him quit. He does not want to do the job of being President (eg offering Kasich the Vice Presidency and being in charge of all domestic and foreign policy), or possibly even understand what it entails.

An enormous amount is going to turn on who Trump appoints to advise him, and how well he can be controlled and managed. So far the signs aren’t good.

4. Trump does not have the Republican Party behind him.

This is huge. During the election race, a huge proportion of the Republican establishment turned their backs on Trump. He won’t forget that.

Crucial to remember is that Trump hijacked the Republican Party – a party itself riven between its extremist tea party rump and its old guard. Trump’s agenda is not their agenda. This is going to be one of the most fascinating things to watch play out. In a strange way, Trump and the Republicans become the brake on each other’s excesses.

What this means is that no one is going to get what they want.

5. The President has less power than you think.

Obama said this in an interview late in his second term. The President can make people listen but unless he can get them to agree and cooperate, they have their own power bases, and don’t have to do what he says. Trump is not going to bring people together. He is not a politician or negotiator. He is a billionaire autocrat who makes decisions the consequences from which he is insulated.

6. Trump forces change. Change is always double edged.

Trump forces change. Either he will shake things up radically and get his way, or he will be unable to, in which case the presidency is revealed as irrelevant and powerless, and the powers that be that control the world are shown to be not democratic, which itself demands a revolution from precisely those who supported Trump’s message. (I can actually imagine Trump stepping down in under a year, throwing his toys at not getting his way, calling the whole system corrupt.)

Every action prompts an equal reaction. The fact of Trump forces the left in America to slap itself hard and start engaging with reality in a new way. The fact of Trump forces the rest of the world’s leaders to start leading on the pressing issues of the day, be they wars, climate, or the changing economy.

The fact of President-elect Trump demands a reaction from every sane and responsible human being alive. For we all have power. We just need to own it, reclaim it, and start using it wisely, each and every day. We can and need to do better. And we are many.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Welcome to interesting times. Are you ready to play?

reflections on homelessness

The other night I participated in the 14 Hours Homeless challenge, aimed at raising awareness about homelessness and money for the agencies who work directly with the homeless who pull together to make the event happen. We got to visit a couple of them and see what they do, and hear stories of the difference they make. (Strongest one: the dental work DCM do, sometimes relieving pain that has been ongoing for years. Yikes.)

Then we spent the night outside on cardboard trying to get some sleep.

Big takeaways:

  • homelessness can be ended. Solutions exist. The vision from the agencies at the coalface is of ending homelessness. This is an awesome vision but it will require the government to step in.
  • the strategy is simple and three pronged: stop people becoming homeless in the first place; respond quickly with supports when they do; prevent them from falling back.
  • being homeless can feel like being invisible. The simple act of acknowledging homeless people, and talking to them, makes a huge difference. If you are left wondering what to do when you walk by, be human first.

Personal reflections: man, you don’t get a good night’s sleep sleeping rough. I found the noise more disruptive than the physical discomfort. I was pretty much a zombie after. Doing this for any length of time would be hella rough going. And even though it was a mild night with little wind, when the wind got up around 2am, I sure noticed.

I also figure the circumstances that got you to being on the street – having nowhere to go, no one who would put you up, and no money – would do me in more than the physical side of things. Most of the stories we heard were from people who never expected to end up homeless.

Today saw the release of the results of the Cross Party Homelessness Inquiry, set up when the government refused requests for a select committee into homelessness. Their recommendations are simple and stark: adopt international best practices the government is so far refusing to, namely put homeless people into housing first, then add in the supports. Build more affordable housing. Intervene in the housing speculation market. Create a nationwide strategy on homelessness.

The word from the agencies I encountered at 14HH was that this is doable. Ending homelessness in Wellington by 2020 is their goal. They can’t do it alone, however. We need the government to step up, or elect one that will. Hearteningly the Maori Party have announced they would split with National over this issue.

This is a live ball, but political pressure from the population is now what is required to get movement from the government. Let them know this issue matters. That it is not okay for Kiwis to be living on the streets and the government to do nothing. That’s not how we roll or who we are. We’re a damn lucky country, and we don’t want to become like some other countries where poverty and homelessness are endemic and entrenched.

Oh, and you can still donate to my homelessness fundraising page, which goes to support DCM. As of right now I’m third on the DCM leaderboard, a buck ahead of our departing mayor Celia Wade Brown 😉

 

elections 2016

I think it is important, in a social media cycle completely dominated by Trump hysteria, to remember to vote in our local elections, which, admittedly, cannot possibly be as entertaining or alarming as this year’s US election, yet have more impact on our day to day lives (to the extent that our lives are not solely consisted of posting and reading things on social media).

To that end, I offer this wondrous piece of advertising:

wellington council inspired voter ad

inspired voter ad

In this campaign there are many different ads following this format. I only saw this one once, and am glad I got the photo.

In a world where our defacto world leader America is contemplating electing either a deranged incompetent laughingstock or an efficient woman that will faithfully serve the existing heinous and dysfunctional order, it is nice to realise we live in a capital city within a country that openly acknowledges “Hey, at one end of one of our primary tourist attractions we have this cool tree with a great view that you can climb up in and get high on top of” in the advertising it uses to reach out to local voters.

So vote, yeah?

 

 

net life achievement measured in excrement

Thanks to the internet and morbid curiousity I have just calculated that I have so far produced ~ 6000kg of excrement in my life.

Imagine 1000 people who weigh 60kg sort of lumped together into a giant flesh pile.

Now imagine it is poop, not people.

This is my legacy, to date.

stay of execution

This will be of interest to the three people who see it.

So I renewed the domain for a year. I was paranoid it would screw something up on my other site, as their WordPress installs are linked. (At least I am no longer hosted on GoDaddy. Fuck those guys.)

Maybe there will be more posting.

weird

just going through draft posts and backing them up. so far like another 20 pages of stuff I’d forgotten. stubs, notes, entire essays. a weird flashback of the almost. sometimes I forget just how much process has gone on. not just with the blog, but with writing, learning, thinking, growing.

 

(oh, and the end of the month is goodbye.)

the moose dances offstage

I am probably going to let this website subside. Over a decade of various musings, and many stages, but I’m not really using it any more. If there is any content you want to nab for posterity, or revisit something or other, get on it. The site will probably vanish at the end of the month.

Thanks for reading and commenting across the years.

I figure anyone who is still reading is probably a pretty interesting person. 🙂

term of the day: repressive desublimation

“Repressive Desublimation

This concept was suggested by Annalee Newitz, author of Scatter, Adapt And Remember. The idea of repressive desublimation was first developed by by political philosopher Herbert Marcuse in his groundbreaking book Eros and Civilization. Newitz says:

It refers to the kind of soft authoritarianism preferred by wealthy, consumer culture societies that want to repress political dissent. In such societies, pop culture encourages people to desublimate or express their desires, whether those are for sex, drugs or violent video games. At the same time, they’re discouraged from questioning corporate and government authorities. As a result, people feel as if they live in a free society even though they may be under constant surveillance and forced to work at mind-numbing jobs. Basically, consumerism and so-called liberal values distract people from social repression.”

{source}

reading 2015 vol 2

So Good They Can’t Ignore You – Cal Newport

Interesting argument that following your passion as a means to find meaningful work is less smart than getting really good at something and building from that. Short and full of padding, but the nugget of gold contained within is pure.

Kettlebell Simple and Sinister – Pavel Tstatsouline

Brutally simple Russian kettlebell protocol from the guy that brought kettlebells to the West. Effective.

The Man In The High Castle – Philip K Dick

Read this maybe 20 years ago and didn’t think much of it. It read a lot better this time, now I have more knowledge of history, the I Ching, and Japanese culture, and PKD’s general philosophy on reality. Set in a world where Germany and Japan won WW2 and have partitioned an occupied America. (Was this the first major alternate history novel? Essentially creating a genre?) A very weird choice to turn into a TV show.

Enchanted Night – Stephen Millhauser

Delightful novella from a Pulitzer prize winning modern fabulist. Dreamy romantic fantasy drenched literature. One unusual, or perhaps usual, night in a small town.

So You Don’t Get Lost In The Neighbourhood – Patrick Modiano

Novella musing on memory, identity and reality from the recent Nobel prize winner. Pretty weird, the narrative sort of dissipates as it goes, as the narrative turns out to not be the point.

Burial Rites – Hannah Kent

Novel. Great evocation of 18th century Iceland as we follow the last woman to be executed in Iceland, a mix of intense reconstruction from documentation and narrative extrapolation.

Book Launch – Chandler Bolt

Useful book about launching books.

A Night of Serious Drinking – Rene Daumal

Curious, inventive, and very fun. A short metaphysical/esoteric novel from the 1930s, in a satirical and pataphysical tradition, steeped in Gurdjieff’s perspective. Blindingly funny in places, with more philosophical subtlety present than at first glance. While I would still recommend Mt Analogue by Daumal over this, I think I am more likely to reread this one.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – spoiler free review

I saw this on opening day, and had avoided the hype and trailers as much as possible, as I knew I wanted to see it. I wasn’t quite sure why until the night before, when it came to me.

I wanted to know what happens to Luke Skywalker.

Star Wars was always his story. He was the iconic heroic mythic figure of my childhood. And getting to find out what happened next is a lure too tempting to ignore. (In a way, where the prequels went wrong was by misunderstanding this central premise, and trying to make it about Anakin.)

So I was in.

Fundamentally, the first Star Wars was a wonderful imaginative ride. Fill a story sandpit with space ships, laser blasters, non stop pulp adventure, monsters to fight and aliens to meet, and underlying it all a spirituality that can speak to the modern age via the mythology of the Force, with Good and a real temptation of Evil, wizards and swords and magic, and you have something gloriously fun, fertile and special in which to play.

The Force Awakens gives us exactly this.

Where the prequels fucked it up, The Force Awakens gets it about right.

In fact, it is almost slavishly true to the original trilogy. But I think it needed to be after the catastrophe of the prequels; in order to get goodwill from the fans, it needed to communicate that it gets and respects the source material, and from here it can build on that, and evolve and mature the series.

And that is as much as I will say without delving into what happens in any way, other than that I really enjoyed the ride.

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