Trump and the lib­eral en­ter­prise

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Ron­ald Th­waites Ron­ald Th­waites is a mem­ber of par­lia­ment for Cen­tral Kingston and op­po­si­tion spokesman on ed­u­ca­tion. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com.

AS JERKY and some­times sor­did as Ja­maican pol­i­tics is, we don’t com­pare for ex­cite­ment with this year’s bur­lesque of United States pres­i­den­tial pol­i­tics.

For it is boil­ing down now to the is­sue of whether the most pow­er­ful na­tion on earth, in its fret­ful de­sire for change, will elect that third-grade bully named Don­ald Trump.

This is a choice of mon­u­men­tal im­por­tance to the world and cer­tainly for Ja­maica. The events of this cam­paign have opened not only a view of the trou­bled Amer­i­can spirit but the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of the lib­eral en­ter­prise for all peo­ple.

We can see ten­den­cies of our own polity in their nar­ra­tive. Peo­ple want change. The dis­par­i­ties of wealth and per­sonal sta­tus anger both the young and the old, who feel left out. We grasp at promis­ers and per­son­al­i­ties who seem to have dash and ruth­less­ness, a touch of Hitler, Duterte or Trump, who we hope will save us from things like tax­a­tion, crime, in­equity and scam­ming.

PERSONALISM DOM­I­NATES

The dom­i­nant pseudo-ide­ol­ogy is personalism – what I can get which pleases me soon­est, qui­ets my neu­roses first, of­fers me ‘prass-perty’, even if at the cost of ev­ery­one else, a lurch back to a self-ref­er­en­tial past – even if I re­ally sus­pect that much of this is a hoax.

The lib­eral en­ter­prise, priz­ing in­di­vid­ual rights and choices, en­cour­ag­ing per­sonal free­doms and, be­cause we for­get so eas­ily, per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, is en­dan­gered by its own lax­ness, its own aban­don­ment of its Ju­daeo-Chris­tian roots – the Golden Rule, the Beat­i­tudes, the good Sa­mar­i­tan story, and even the cross it­self.

So mil­lions of us end up sup­port­ing harsh tax­a­tion of the poor­est to cur­ry­favour with those al­ready en­dowed, whether on Wall Street or New Kingston. Many would ap­plaud the killing of drug users and deal­ers in Manila, and sup­port the abo­li­tion of INDECOM, or the mass abor­tion of in­con­ve­nient ba­bies wher­ever.

Faith­ful­ness and com­mit­ment – the foun­da­tion of fam­ily; or­der and mercy – the foun­da­tions of com­mu­nity – be­come terms of con­ve­nience to be used more of­ten than prac­tised. Ego and sec­tional in­ter­est trump the com­mon good more of­ten than not.

Of course, all of the above are gen­er­al­i­sa­tions for which heroic and fre­quent ex­cep­tions abound. But who can deny that the trend away from per­sonal and so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity is strength­en­ing in world cul­ture?

En­ter Don­ald Trump, who has ex­cited some 40 per cent of the Amer­i­can elec­torate. Here is some­one (see any looka­likes lo­cally?) who feels women were made for en­ter­tain­ment and who rev­els in his ex­pe­ri­ence that if you are rich and fa­mous like him, no woman can re­sist.

Re­late that, if you care, to the wide­spread con­vic­tion that if you want a girl in Ja­maica, you have to spend money, and con­versely, if you want a man, you have to be avail­able for sex right now.

I think peo­ple are flock­ing to Trump, what­ever he says or does, be­cause he rep­re­sents the an­ti­dote, the coun­ter­point to what they con­sider to have been the im­pu­dence of the elec­torate in elect­ing a black man to oc­cupy the White House.

And worse now, al­beit un­spo­ken but deeply ob­jected, that a woman could be elected to fol­low Obama.

As we look on, recog­nis­ing how de­riv­a­tive our econ­omy and cul­ture have be­come to the United States, must we not take the time at all lev­els – our churches, political par­ties, ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions and civic or­gan­i­sa­tions – to re­fine and strengthen the val­ues and at­ti­tudes we want to hold in com­mon?

Or else we might end up one day be­ing se­duced by some­one like The Don­ald.

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