Why we we’re trumped
The new US president wants to make America great again, but he’s going to need some magic of an unearthly kind. Words Murray Grimwood
I’ve been watching the media since the Trump election. Firstly, they assumed it wouldn’t happen, then they tried to work out why it had. They’ve yet to ask the right questions.
Could it be that they are using an invalid form of measurement that is passing its use-by date? I would suggest so. It’s pretty simple and if you read this column regularly, you’ll have heard it before.
You start with 1000 bananas. You eat one a day, then two, then four, and if you keep betting on that process (a) continuing at any given level or (b) continuing to grow into the future, then at some stage you are going to be disappointed. Hungry even.
If I’ve got it right we passed the 500-banana mark a decade back. If you’ll excuse the change of simile, we’ve since tried the three-card monte, printed up a few extra aces, and are now going for the Trump card while holding a misère hand.
This is nothing to do with megalomania or misogyny, although it has thrown up a thoroughly entertaining example of both. It is about more betting slips avowing ‘this slip is legal tender for the right to buy a banana’ being held than there are bananas left. An increasing number of folk are unable to obtain any slips at all.
The classic story of disenfranchised First World people voting for someone because he offered hope is the same as that of Germany in the 1920s. Both countries were saddled with debts that could not be repaid and they both chose to believe their country could be great again.
Believe. It’s such a different word from ‘ascertain’. Assume. It’s such a different word from ‘investigate’. Yet believe and assume is what the media has done, and what most of the world has done. People still believe and assume that if we keep amassing betting slips we will keep on getting bananas.
I read an editorial recently which went as far as saying:
“Somewhere along the way, the magic dust that produced a prolonged period of growth and improved living standards has lost its potency.” Source: The Listener, January 7, 2017 Magic dust? Spare me. Trump is merely a symptom, not the disease itself. To waste time examining, decrying or protesting his personal faults is to miss the point. What he heralds is a new paradigm unfolding, and unfolding rapidly. Even if he – and we – removed every legal limitation standing in the way of energy resource extraction, it wouldn’t be enough to re-start global growth. Simply put, when you’re at the 500 banana point, you already have enough infrastructure – refineries, pipelines, tankers and tanks in the case of oil – to deal with the remaining 500. There is no presentable business case for building more.
Trump will also know, or will have been advised by the likes of his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (the former CEO of oil giant Exxonmobil), that there will never again be a surfeit of bananas.
The usual political step in such a situation is to deflect your constituent angst in the direction of someone else. Mexico, immigrants, Muslims, terrorists.
But disenfranchised Americans can’t afford the stuff cheaply made elsewhere even now. They certainly aren’t going to be able to afford American-made stuff with its much higher costs (including fair wages) and they’ll be no better off if they accept Third World wages themselves.
What has happened is that the world’s ‘business model’ is no longer viable, a fact mirrored in huge, increasing and unrepayable debts.
We need to solve the underlying problem. Individually, we can do our bit by insisting that our media discuss these topics, rather than regurgitating the nonsense that we can grow our banana consumption forever. Then we can vote for – once we’ve selected them – a new breed of politicians, ones who grasp the true meaning of sustainability and can clearsightedly legislate for it.
They won’t be people like Trump. They won’t be like the Clintons either. In the meantime, we can lead by personal example and reducing our consumption is a great place to start. That would result in a new form of media, one much less reliant on income from banana advertising. One with a new business model.
But it seems for now I have to defer to professional investigative journalism. Apparently it was magic dust all along. Maybe that explains the election of a President so clearly away with the fairies. n