Planting The Seed

The man really is a piece of work! Donald Trump is preparing his mindless minions for his loss — which, in his world, can only happen if the other side cheats, if the election is “rigged.” He honestly believes, I do think, that he cannot lose unless the Clinton forces cheat — and this from a man who uses WikiLeaks to undermine the Democratic effort. He knows that the DNC cheated in making sure that Hillary won the nomination (which appears to be true) and he now reads the tea leaves and sees his eventual loss, which can only happen if the same machine works to bring him down. Consider this brief excerpt from a Yahoo News report on-line:

Donald Trump suggested on Monday that the November election may be “rigged” against him.

“I’m afraid the election is going be rigged, I have to be honest,” Trump said at a town hall in Columbus, Ohio.

The Republican nominee pointed to Bernie Sanders’ unsuccessful Democratic primary campaign as an example of elections being rigged. Trump has frequently claimed that Hillary Clinton only won the primary because national Democrats intervened on her behalf.

At his Monday campaign rally, Trump added that the Republican Party could not stop him in the GOP primary because of the margin of victory he racked up.

“Poor Bernie. He looks so upset. You know what, he shouldn’t have made a deal,” Trump said, referring to Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton. “I think my side was rigged if I didn’t win by massive landslides.”

He even pretends to be sympathetic with Bernie Sanders! But note the final remark: “. . .my side was rigged if I didn’t win by massive landslides.” Now there’s delusion for you. The man is not only a megalomaniac he is a deluded megalomaniac! And he may be just a touch paranoid. As I say, he honestly believes what he says.  In fact, I believe he is convinced that what he says is true because he says it. He is that convinced of his own greatness and superiority to the rest of us. He lives on an island that consists only of himself and he allows others to visit him from time to time, but only if they adore him, and pay him the homage he thinks he deserves. My goodness!

In any event, the tea leaves do appear to be right. Hillary had the expected bump after the convention, but her poll numbers fail to reflect the fact that growing numbers of disenfranchised voters are registering to vote to see to it that Trump fails in November. She appears to be extending her lead.

But we can be certain that Trump will prepare his followers to be braced for the loss and I will go out on a limb and predict that there will be a violent reaction in the Trump camp and among his followers after the loss which the man cannot possibly accept honorably: he doesn’t know what the word means.

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Imposter?

One of the more intriguing stories to come out of the race among a truly ridiculous bunch of clowns for the Republican nomination for President arises in connection with Dr. Ben Carson who claims to have risen from dire poverty to become a world-famous surgeon. Are the stories he tells about himself true? Does it matter? A recent article by Matt Bal on-line addresses this issue. As the article tells us, regarding the close scrutiny that faces every political candidate these days:

Perhaps more to the point, though, such scrutiny fails to make a critical distinction when it comes to measuring integrity — namely, the distinction between the stories a politician might contrive to tell you, on one hand, and the stories he has always told himself on the other.  . .

It seems very likely that, at least until this week, Carson had always believed he tried to kill his friend and that he spurned West Point to become a doctor. So what. That doesn’t make him an impostor. It makes him someone who found meaning in some pivotal moments of his boyhood, even if memory sharpened the edges a bit.

And these kinds of moments, real or embellished, have value when we assess our candidates, if we’re not looking at everything through some superficial, true-false lens. Carson’s book, which I devoured in a day, probably doesn’t tell us much about his trustworthiness now. But if you’re reading with any genuine curiosity, it can tell you an awful lot about the way he sees his own journey.

It explains the sense of destiny that propels a man who has never held elective office — and doesn’t know very much about government — to suddenly get up one day and seek the presidency. . . .

The things politicians believe about themselves are often a lot more illuminating than the truth.

Perhaps more “illuminating” but not more important. The truth of the stories politicians tell about themselves matters a great deal. People who tell falsehoods about themselves are in some sense of that word “delusional.”  And Ben Carter’s stories are not only false but also delusional. Take, for example, his claim that he turned down a “full ride” to West Point to enter medicine. West Point doesn’t have “full rides.” They basically enlist the men and women for a free education which then requires that they serve in the Army for a full term to repay the favor. In that sense, all who matriculate at West Point, or the Naval or Air Force Academies, have a “full ride.” Carter seems to be telling us a story he made up about himself to impress us with his determination to become a  man of medicine but also one who might well have taken another turn and become a major-general. Kids do this sort of thing. Perhaps we all do to some extent — as the article above suggests — but we are not all running for president! The main question to ponder is are those stories we all tell “porkies,” as the Brits would say, or are they a sign that we really don’t know what is true anymore?

The fact that Carson makes up this stuff raises the question of the man’s inherent integrity. Are we sure we want a man to lead this country who not only “doesn’t know much about government” but also has a very loose hold on the truth? Do we know what we are getting? Or is it sufficient that he has no track record whatever in the political race and THEREFORE must be OK? Our determination to find someone to replace the clutter that now fills the hallowed halls of politics is understandable, but we must be very careful what comes out when we turn over every non-political rock in sight.

I do love the comment I quoted in a previous post: “Whether or not you like the man, Ben Carson has forced us to ask the really tough questions, such as ‘Have we overestimated the intelligence of our brain surgeons?'” But it’s not all about intelligence. Not in the least. Martin Luther King once dreamed that the day will come when we are not judged by the color of our skin but by “the content of our character.” As near as I can tell, when it comes to character, this particular politician is running on empty.

Our Brave New World

One of my favorite books of all time is Huxley’s Brave New World. It’s not so much that the book is great literature, because it isn’t. But it remains a favorite because I have never ceased to be amazed by the things that Huxley saw so clearly nearly one hundred years ago. I don’t mean that he predicted we would be able to ride in helicopters one day. I mean he saw clearly what our culture would become: hedonistic and self-obsessed.

The book predicts a day when citizens can flee from pain and anxiety by popping a pill. The citizens of BNW fill their lives with endless diversions and vapid gratifications, immediate and shallow — but certainly not fulfilling. It’s all about doing their thing, whether or not it’s worth doing. Indeed, that question is never raised.  History is bunk, of course, because the only thing that matters is the present moment and the pleasure that can be milked from that moment. The citizens of BNW have “. . .no time, no leisure from pleasure, not a moment to sit down and think.”

There are no meaningful human relationships, and communities are tied together artificially by means of community sings, free sex, and heaps of Soma. The community matters because the brave new world cannot stand individuals, that is, those who stand apart. If the individual dares to assert himself he is deported to an island where he cannot bother others who are intent on making sure they never have time to think or feel much of anything.

Aside from contraceptive pills and tranquilizers, I have always thought the first real step we took in our culture toward the brave new world was the credit card. It came on the scene in a large way in the 1950s and within ten years had pretty much become a necessity in every pocket or pocketbook. In itself it is merely a convenient way to make purchases. But its significance is worth contemplating: it means immediate gratification. We no longer have to wait for anything, we can have it now. “Has any of you been compelled to live through a long time-interval between consciousness of a desire and its fulfillment?” asks Huxley. Not any longer! It doesn’t matter if we can’t pay, we have plastic. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. Anticipation greatly increases the delight from receipt of the thing long awaited. We tend to forget that.

But now we simply charge it and take it home. We don’t have to wait another minute. If the credit limit is reached, we merely switch to another company and wait until the new card fills. Credit card debt in this country is staggering — something like $20,000.00 on average. It tells us something about ourselves that we might not care to know. We are rapacious in our desire to have things and own stuff, as though our very sense of self worth is tied up with what we own. The one who dies with the most toys wins, as the saying goes.

In the end, Huxley saw clearly what was coming, and we have realized in so many ways precisely the delights that those denizens of the ant-heap in Huxley’s world reached out for and grabbed with little or no real effort. And we have become just as shallow. It is ironic that many who read Huxley’s book fail to see its implications.

I recall vividly some years ago when I directed a required Freshman college course and suggested that we read BNW. An alarming number of the 300 students couldn’t make the connection. Indeed, a number of them simply couldn’t understand the words on the page — even the page in their “cheaters.” But that’s another story. For the most part, those who could grasp the meanings of the words Huxley wrote insisted it was science fiction, certainly not something we need to take seriously. Jonathan Swift once said that satire was like a mirror in which each reader saw everyone except himself. In that sense, Huxley wrote a satire. But it is one in which we need to admit that we are very much in the frame.