The Trump Enigma

Along with many other amateur political analysts, I had to hold back streams of laughter when Donald Trump announced that he would be running for the US presidency. A multi-billionaire tycoon, whose expertise is in the fields of business and mass media, becoming a hopeful candidate? Especially considering how anti-corporate the US political climate seemed at the time of his candidacy? Surely this would be one of the greatest political failures of our generation. I was certain that he was heading towards a catastrophe, that could forever ruin his reputation and career. Yet, as the results of the polls came in, my jaw dropped—perhaps accompanied by the gaping mouths of those who thought the same way about Trump.

Donald Trump is now one of the two most popular candidates in the US elections. Moreover, he has a chance to win the race. Despite his background of having always been wealthy throughout his life, his numerous scandals, the unintelligible blurbs that come out from his mouth, he still resonated with the American people. I was flabbergasted that a man who is well-known to bask in his own glory could rally the voices of millions of people. I had to find out why, immediately, about how this man who is a widespread internet-joke, or nothing else but a celebrity of reality TV garner so much followers. The answers, as always, are many.

We could turn our eyes towards how famous, or infamous, Trump is as a television personality. We could point our fingers at the massive piles of cash he hoards. Perhaps we could even say that he has a kind of charisma that oddly adheres people to him. I would not say that any of these guesses are wrong—I am but a layman after all—but what piques my curiosity is the latter of these choices. I.e. his public speaking ability. Or lack thereof, depending on how one views him. Nevertheless, he does have a way with people, especially with convincing his listeners that he knows the solution to all  of their problems.

In one of his most well known speeches, which was about something I failed to understand, he muttered the rambling answer,

“Look. We can bring the American Dream back. That I will tell you. We will bring it back. Okay? And I understand what you’re saying. And I get that from so many people. ‘Is the American Dream dead?’ They are asking me the question, ‘Is the American Dream dead?’ And the American Dream is in trouble. That I can tell you. Okay? It’s in trouble. But we’re going to get it back and do some real jobs. How about the man with that beautiful red hat? Stand up! Stand up! What a hat!”

What do those words mean, really? He talked about the “American Dream,” an already vague concept, said that it was in peril, pledged that he will rectify the situation, and something about a man with a red hat for some reason. Essentially, it’s a load of gibberish. But I am not showcasing his speech as another way to derive humor from Trump, rather to illustrate how clever he actually is when it comes to preaching to the public.

Trump’s appeal clearly doesn’t lie in the realm of wisdom. Who, in their right mind, could conceive of the idea of building a literal wall to prevent Mexican immigrants? Probably no one sane. However, he does have a peculiar kind of specialty: giving his listeners answers to their problems, in a manner that is both simplistic and decisive. In other words, it does not matter how wrong he could be concerning the issues he speaks of, what is truly of import is that he is willing to instantaneously generate solutions.

Any person would be able to understand that the world is not black and white. No terrorist group consists wholly of evil-doers, not all American are gun-toting Bible-thumpers, and no issue can be resolved with an answer that does not bring about unwanted consequences. Yet Trump attempts, and at times, succeeds at painting a black-and-white world; where there is absolute good—America—and evil—almost everyone else. Here is where I believe Trump’s core power lies: in simplifying complex quandaries into something solvable by the common man. Of course, his resolutions are  likely in error, yet what does that matter when his voters are in agreement? His errs are invisible to his supporters, so they matter almost none really.

I ask you, dear reader, to return to the part of Trump’s speech I pasted on this text. Look back at how vague the subject of the “American Dream” is, how he does not even try to tell the audience the difficulties apparently surrounding it. However, these two elements are already useful enough for Trump to demonstrate how great his capacity to rule would be. Should he become head of state, then he would simply, “…get it back and do some real jobs.” And before anyone could provide a rebuttal, he diverts the public’s attention to “…the man with the beautiful red hat.”

How Trump managed to draw an immense crowd of dedicated supporters, is partially due to his ability to toy with the minds of the public. Present a topic, claim that there are complications surrounding it, then confer a vague but understandable answer before redirecting the listeners’ focus to something completely different. With that method, he could portray himself as an able leader, who should be followed and listened.

Trump is actively undertaking a crusade against critical thinking. His words, when rebutted, would be denied in a manner that incredibly few could understand. This is also done in purpose, as then his followers would be able to imagine the realization of Trump’s resolution by themselves. And as the human mind is prone to do, we prefer to think in a way that complements our beliefs. For Trump’s adherers, this would mean that his resolutions would be flawlessly implemented, to the benefit of them all.

It ix no mystery at all then, why there exists people who support a man born out of wealth, who made his fame through vapid television programs, all the while acting against the interests of the middle or lower economic classes. These facts do not concern Trump supporters. As he has successfully, perhaps for the misfortune of those not loaded with money, goaded American peoples into supporting someone who knows perhaps next to nothing about good governance. Regrettably, we—as either citizens or non-citizens of the US—can only watch him prod more and more cattle into his slaughterhouse. He truly is the manifestation of how humans entrapped by fear, from the realms of security to personal finance, could make the unwisest decisions.

It is Never so Simple, Mister Dawkins

Richard Dawkins is someone I once greatly admired. An accomplished evolutionary biologist and general scholar of all things related to the natural sciences, he disproved the claims of sacred scriptures by means of ethics, commons sense, and his forte, science. To myself, he was a kind of prophet who preached to any who would listen—including myself—of how and why one should lead a life without yielding to any god. And for quite some time, years actually, I took his works to be unquestionable truths.

His written works, lectures, and speeches are quite diverse. At times he simply talks of the miracles brought to us by the evolution of science. On other occasions, he would showcase how religious dictations have no actual basis to lean on. Yet as of late, his words exhibit the idea that religion is the root of all the wrongs in this world. For the first and second categories of topics I saw no problem with Dawkins, but on the last I began to disagree with his assessment.

I am an International Relations student, and an amateur analyst of political and military events across the globe. My studies concentrate primarily on how conflicts began, were handled, and how they were brought to an end—in some cases, hypothesizing solutions regarding how they could potentially be concluded. Of the many fascinating matters in my field, perhaps the one I am most intrigued with is the idea that religious beliefs breed conflict rather than abate it, as most believers would say. A number of my betters, though I cannot say whether they are the majority or minority, reached the consensus that differences in belief systems is a prime reason for groups of people to hunt down one another. Dawkins resides in this school of thought.

In Dawkins’ eyes, the violence carried out under the name of religion—be it hate crimes, terrorism, or all-out warfare—are all caused by contrasts in belief systems. This, I would argue, is not the case. For in my humble opinion, religion is as a political asset, simply a banner.

Religion serves the same function as other ideologies believed or worshipped by the diverse factions of humanity. While there have been countless battles launched with the supposed claim of either promoting Islam, Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, so on and so forth, the finer texts of history would showcase that these belief systems and their kin are nothing more than masks for covering up darker truths. The works of social scientists who scrutinize over the causes of warfare, beyond their surface appearances alone, would make us understand that the foundations of conflict are quite numerous and complex.

For instance, let us take the example of the Thirty Years War. A purported religious crusade between Protestants and Catholics. The heads of states from both sides declared in a public manner that there was a struggle between two beliefs, and the opposing force are heretics for declaring that their faith is the one truly welcomed by the Abrahamic god. However, these declarations are merely one of countless methods for rallying the support of the masses. If I may over-simplify things somewhat, the struggle between the Catholics and Protestants are shortly put, an endeavor by both sides to expand their spheres of power. As the past superpower, the Holy Roman Empire started to collapse, keen leaders realized that they could gain supremacy over most European nations. An instability in the balance of power formed a competition between the enthusiastic kingdoms to expand their lands, gain access to more resources, control the actions of parties weaker than they are. The participants of the war did not place the spreading of their religions as a primary concern, but a way to justify their expansionist tendencies to their subjects.

Another way of showcasing how irrelevant religion really is as a root for conflict, is to turn back towards recent history, specifically during the years of the Cold War era. The leaders of both the Soviet Union, the United States of America, and the client states of the two superpowers utilized banners in a way similar to how the leaders of the Thirty Years War did. Yet these particular banners were not adorned with symbols pertaining to religious beliefs, rather the symbolisms used were birthed by the ideologies of Communism and Democracy. With each party painting its opposition as the opposition of evil. The Soviets were drawn to be inhuman beings who fought against every man, woman, and child’s right to live freely. Whilst the US were elucidated to be the epitome of greed, with its followers as uncaring individuals who would do anything for personal wealth.

But again, the Cold War is not simply Democracy going up against Communism. It was, in a simplified understanding, a contest between two emerging superpowers. An era wherein two of the world’s most powerful states fought over which of them should reign supreme. The ideological part did not truly matter, the priority of both states were to seize power alone.

Thus we can now see, that both samples of warfare seemingly caused by ideological differences in fact had other underlying factors. Ones that were obscured by the banners of religion, nationalism, and so on. From this point on, we can return back to Dawkins.

Where Dawkins’ mistake lies, is in analyzing conflicts solely from their surface appearance. He was distracted, as were the unfortunate peons ushered into combat, into believing that banners amount to something more than just another way of justifying a statesman’s selfish decisions and actions.

I do not blame Dawkins for his inaccurate analysis concerning human conflict. Any person, no matter how bright he or she is, could always be in error. However, what I do blame him for, is misguiding the people—for the most part Atheists—who think that all of his sayings could never be incorrect. As it is a scientist’s greatest sin, to hypothesize about a phenomena, without gathering sufficient data and preaching as if it is the absolute truth.

What I hope Dawkins would one day do, is delve deeper into human history. Understand in full what caused the ripples and waves that have occurred throughout our existence. Otherwise, he would only be diverting his followers from the daunting task  of objectively analyzing the past.

If Dawkins had taught us anything, it is that we should never look for easy answers. The sort that dictates numerous, diverse happening are all caused by a singular factor. It limits our ability and willingness to take in all the necessary information needed to dig up truths. Such a method of thinking is counterproductive to figuring out how to bring about a more peaceful Earth, which Dawkins wishes he could do but fails because of his blunder.

Captain of the Sinking USSR

Mikhail Gorbachev was the last leader of the Soviet Union. A former General Secretary of the Communist Party, he presided over the USSR as it attempted to restructure itself, yet ultimately crumbled. However, though Gorbachev’s failure to keep the politburo intact might seem to be an illustration of his ineptitude, it would be unwise to leap into such a conclusion. As the writers shall
Unlike his predecessors—Khrushchev, Brezhnev, et cetera—Gorbachev did not seek global military domination. Instead, he initiated policies aimed at reforming the Soviet Union from being a security threat to its near and far neighbors, into a state which devoted its resources for the betterment of its citizens .
Perhaps Gorbachev’s two most well-known policies are glasnost and perestroika. The former having the goal of pulling the politburo’s operations and decisions out of the shadows and into the eyes of the public. Whilst the latter was utilized as a system for reviving the collapsing Soviet economy, redirecting them from the path of constant production of missiles and other weaponries, towards more peaceful enterprises that seek nothing more than profit via peaceful means. Both these stances stood in stark contrast to the former policies enacted by the USSR, with many regarding them to be efforts at reaching pseudo-democracy .

We can now see that Gorbachev was somewhat of an anomaly in the Soviet Union. During his reign, the Soviets essentially ventured at leaving behind the Cold War, and by extension the nuclear arms race, to form a nation obsessed not with warfare but growth through tranquility and cooperation—both within and outside of its borders. At the end of the international saga, Gorbachev’s leadership arguably caused the dissolution of the Soviet empire. Again, seemingly a defeat on his part yet a loss which ushered in an era of living unafraid of the possibility of death at the hands of nuclear armaments .

At present, Gorbachev continues to tread on routes unfamiliar to Russian leaders. Today he struggles not to regain power, rather pave the way for the further democratization of Russia. On June 1st 2016, The New York Times published an article titled, “Reviled by Many Russians, Mikhail Gorbachev Still Has Lots to Say” which grants its readers a glance at the challenges he—as well as democracy—faces in his homeland.

In the aforementioned feature, Gorbachev speaks of how differently his fellow countrymen view him. Those who recognized the value of his endeavors near the Soviet Union’s collapse see him as a hero, particularly for enacting perestroika, the policy which allowed Russians to become more than mere pawns of the politburo. Sadly not all view him in such a complimentary manner, as many declare that he should be put on trial primarily for allowing the Soviet Union to fall. Others think of him as a traitor to the country, convinced that he degraded Russia, letting it be nothing more than a serf of the US right after the Cold War ended. Gorbachev was and perhaps still is deeply affected by how vicious Russia’s rhetoric about him could be, fearing that he might be publicized as a “foreign agent,” which basically means spy in Cold War lexicon. With basic logic alone, one could easily imagine how a state would treat spies in its midst, likely with a minimal punishment of imprisonment and at worst, death.

Despite these harassments aimed at him, that clearly induced a sense of terror within his psyche, Gorbachev did not halt his campaign for democracy in Russia. In a state known to host sham elections and authoritarianism , Gorbachev tried to establish democratic parties within Russia, not just once but thrice—in 2001, 2007, and 2009 . Although their effects on Russian politics are marginal at best, his perseverance to bring forth democracy in a land congested with tales of dictators reflect greatly upon his character.

Mikhail Gorbachev is both famous and infamous. Understood to be the bringer of peace, yet regarded as the sower of misfortune. Thus he is treated with love and contempt in near equal levels. However, he does not let the threats of others affect him. He permits fear within him yet marches onward, towards the goal of realizing democracy in Russia.

How should we then understand a leader like Mikhail Gorbachev? That is, how should we judge his worth in the context of leadership qualities? Many would quickly point at the downfall of the Soviet Union as a clear mark of that he does not have any redeeming qualities. After all, it is rare for the head of a state to enable the dissolution of his charge, rarer so when its ruination is done purposefully. Yet when one observes the state of the world during Gorbachev’s reign, one would be perhaps be able to understand why he made his controversial decision.

The Soviet Union was facing an economic collapse caused by years of producing items useful only in wartime. Its people were impoverished, with even those who are capable of designing and manufacturing nuclear bombs having wages comparable to farmers . When Gorbachev took the seat of General Secretary, the Union was practically bankrupt, with no private enterprises supporting its economy. Hence his conception of perestroika, with the addition of glasnost to abate the bubbling fury of Soviet citizens who were penniless due to the actions and decisions of statesmen. Moreover, the politburo was filled to the brim with corruption, securing most of the Union’s funds for the private use of select government officials. Gorbachev became captain of a sinking ship, one which despite his best efforts he could not save.

Without sufficient assets from inside the Union, Gorbachev needed some way to salvage his country; to at least not let it become one of the countless forgotten empires in history. His solution could only come from outside intervention, from the charity of the Union’s contemporaries. Yet with the Union being perceived to be a threat to global peace, it was unlikely that any would come to its aid. Thus Gorbachev made the unthinkably difficult call of completely demolishing the Soviet regime, and planted the seeds for a new government to take over—one which could sustain itself and not be seen as a menace. All the while aware of how the politburo and his countrymen would treat him as villain, a failure afterwards.

Mikhail Gorbachev is a leader who will do what he believes to be the right thing, no matter the consequences. He has proven his dedication to maintaining peace and improving the lives of his people during the Cold War, relinquishing all the power he had by doing so. And today, as he faces the challenge of bringing democracy into Russia, a task that very few think he could accomplish, he never wavered from his stance.

Gorbachev is an illustration of how leadership is not simply about maintaining power. But that it involves personal sacrifice, that the lives of those under you are your responsibility, and that when there is no easy way out even the most perilous roads must be taken. Put short, Mikhail Gorbachev is the kind of leader who will do all in his power, to protect the well-being of his people.