Saturday, May 7, 2016

How Could a Free-Thinking Buddhist Monk Vote for Donald Trump?


 "The whole history of the world is summed up in the fact that, when nations are strong, they are not always just, and when they wish to be just, they are no longer strong." —Winston Churchill

    Yeah, yeah, I know. This isn’t Dharma, and if it’s philosophy, it’s of a very crude and shallow sort. It is, however, still challenging established views, and possibly even favoring an outwardly better world. Don’t worry: It will be all over soon. Nothing lasts. Everything is impermanent. So there—some Dharma, right off the bat.
     I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I lost most of my interest in politics, most of what little there was to begin with, after realizing that what is good and right from an ethical point of view is not necessarily good and right from a political point of view. If we assume that the primary purpose of government is to ensure the prosperity and well-being of the people it governs, then sometimes favoring one’s own people and being unfair or uncharitable toward others is the sound, valid choice from a political perspective. 
     The classic, most obvious example is war. From the perspective of ethics, particularly Buddhist ethics, war is mass murder, period. War is always a bad thing. It is morally superior to die than deliberately to kill. But if the purpose of a government is to protect its own people, then war may be an absolute political necessity. The position of the Allies during the Second World War is a case in point. If we didn’t fight against the Axis Powers, then our country, and the world at large, might be devoid of Jews, blacks, and other “inferior subhumans” right now, with furthermore no constitutional rights for anyone.
     Also, if we consider the history of classical Rome, we see that the political policies of Rome with regard to its own citizens were, relatively speaking, extraordinarily fair, especially at first before tyrannical Caesars took control, although quite ruthless toward outsiders, especially towards perceived rivals and enemies. Rome mercilessly conquered much of the Western world, sometimes perpetrating atrocities like the Third Punic War, yet at the same time introduced to the West what were extremely advanced, liberal, effective systems of law, governance, education, etc.. The UK and the USA also became great powers, for good and for otherwise, as a result of such ruthless actions as the UK’s Opium Wars and the USA’s war on Mexico in 1848, in which we essentially beat up the Mexicans, invaded their country and capital city, and stole from them Texas, California, and everything in between. Although the UK eventually returned Hong Kong to China, few Americans suggest that we should give Texas, California, etc. back to Mexico. Although the Mexican population of the Southwest USA is apparently increasing, which I guess is only fair. 
     So I have reconciled myself philosophically to the idea that politics is to some degree its own sphere, and, like nature itself, is necessarily to some degree amoral. The first priority of a government should be the prosperity and well-being of its own people, with other considerations, like the well-being of everyone else, being still good and valid, but not to the extent that the nation itself is significantly harmed by it. I say all this by way of introduction, although it may not be in reality a major consideration in what follows. 
     Perhaps I should say here that it looks like I won’t vote Donald Trump for president. I won’t vote for Hillary Clinton either. It looks like I won’t vote for anyone, unless by absentee ballot, largely because I will probably be living in rural Burma next November. But if I were in America at that time, and if I did vote, and if Donald Trump were running for president as a Republican or Independent or whatever, I would very probably vote for him as America’s only really viable option. If Trump weren’t running, then if I did vote it would be to throw my vote away on whomever is the Libertarian candidate. So I do favor Donald Trump (even if he wouldn’t favor the likes of me), and endorse him to some degree, although it is mainly due to a lack of anyone better.
     I have never voted for a Republican president. I consider Ted Cruz, Trump’s only remaining rival within the Republican party, to be at least as bad a choice as Hillary Clinton. (Ha, since writing that I learned that Cruz has dropped out. All academic now.) The Republicans have tended to favor militarism, Bible-thumping, tax breaks for the rich, and gratuitous, excessive Machiavellianism way too much for me ever to have endorsed them. As a young man I once resolved that if Ronald Reagan’s face ever appeared on money I would emigrate to Australia. But one reason why I like Trump is because the Republican Party itself hates and fears him. I’ll soon get back to that point. 
     I really don’t care very much if Trump builds a wall to keep Mexicans out or prevents Muslims from immigrating to America. I suppose the USA has the right to guard its borders and filter who comes in. (I would like it if he promised Edward Snowden a fair trial if he returns to the USA, though.) I don’t care all that much if he is a racist or a sexist, or even if personally he is a colossal jerk. I do not, however, consider him to be evil, or “literally Adolf Hitler,” and I consider it extremely unlikely that if he were elected he would overthrow the US Constitution and have himself declared Dictator for Life, as some lefties seem to expect of him. His actual policies are almost irrelevant—which may seem ridiculous or bizarre to some Americans who see the upcoming presidential election as the climax of a kind of Western ethical crisis. As mentioned above, ethics are not the primary point at issue; and professional politicians exploit ethics in a Machiavellian manner anyhow, further demonstrating the ultimate pragmatic amorality of successful politics.


Donald J. Trump, master of "the American Dream"


     So following are the main reasons why I (provisionally, for the time being) endorse Donald Trump for US President. Even if you despise the man, at least you may see that not only stupid hicks and neo-Nazis can favor him. Consider this an anthropological study, or a case of pragmatism taking precedence over moral ideology.
     >Trump is filthy rich, in addition to having cojones and being a political outsider, and consequently he kisses the ass of nobody. Most politicians in the current American political scene are stuck in a morbid system in which their Party and their financial backers get strings attached and thereby limit the powers of whomever they buy. Obama, for example, after starting as some idealist Great Hope (and I voted for him too), apparently has degenerated into a politically correct puppet. So Trump is relatively independent of this screwed up political system which hampers the effectiveness of its executive officers. The main reason why the Republican Party itself hates and fears Trump is mainly that he won't kiss their collective behind. Nobody can control him the way a professional politician can be controlled; and an obedient puppet is hardly likely to accomplish anything “great,” or even really significant, unless it is significantly for the worse.
     >He is the stereotypical “alpha male” who has the force of character to go against the current of the political status quo (like an ever-increasing national debt, let alone corrupt politics) and to make significant changes for the better. It has been human nature for a million years for the majority to support a strong, dominant leader, especially in times of crisis, which we arguably are in nowadays. Few who are familiar with the old Star Trek TV show would argue that Captain James Tiberius Kirk was the right man for the job of commander. And one of the most outstanding qualities of Captain Kirk was an unusually high magnitude and quality of cojones. And Trump, much more than Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, has this qualification.
     >He is a skilled businessman, and since the USA is in an economic mess, it is more likely that he would be able to turn the mess around. What America needs is a skillful chief executive who can drive a shrewd bargain when negotiating treaties and trade agreements, which is something that the US has done badly over the past few decades.
     >With regard to his foreign policy he may be farther to the political left than his main rival Hillary Clinton. One of Trump’s policies in particular that I can’t help but like is that he is willing to be on friendlier terms with Russia, whereas Clinton seems intent upon continuing the Cold War. (I happen to like the Russian people, and think our two countries have been enemies for far too long. I agree that we should extend a hand of friendship and be allies if at all possible. The same probably goes for China too, although Russia is more interesting to me, and probably has more common ground with us Americans.) But part of the problem is that the American political machine, as part of its status quo, has been interfering in international politics in a partly successful attempt to get as many countries as possible under US influence, in order to dominate world politics in a kind of Pax Americana; and of course some other countries like Russia and China don’t like this. Better a more or less cooperative community of independent nations with the USA being one of the big guns than a kind of crypto-Empire with America calling the shots—especially if the latter is prohibitively expensive for America. The Obama administration, partly, I assume, due to Obama’s inability or unwillingness to go against the political current (unlike a strong president like JFK), has largely continued with the second Bush administration’s interference in West Asian and North African politics (let alone electronic surveillance of the American people in the name of national security), with calamitous results. A little more of minding our own business could make us more respected and popular in the world, as well as saving money. 
     >Again, although he’s technically a Republican, the Republican party’s elite hates and fears him, and I am no Republican; and I consider the far right to be just as foolish as the far left, although nowadays in America they are less of a danger to freedom and individual rights.
     >Also again, Trump is not a professional politician, and for that reason he is more in a position to think “outside the box,” providing fresh solutions to problems that the professionals, obviously, have been unable to solve. He is, however, a veteran executive officer, and an extremely successful one. It may be that treating American economics as a business problem may be much more effective than relying on professional politicians trying to please their voters and string-holders.
     >But one of the most important reasons why I (provisionally) endorse Mr. Trump is that he is not politically correct, and I consider PC to be a dangerous cancer on American society. It is a kind of mandatory hypocrisy, institutionalized dishonesty, in which a person dares not say what he or she really feels for fear of persecution. Furthermore, although many do not realize this, political correctness hysteria is based upon a newish progressive liberal ideology, suffused with so-called Social Justice, Marxism, and third wave feminism, that is rife with pseudoscience, sloppy thinking, and just plain falsehood. Consider, for example, the “progressive” axiom that both genders and all races are naturally exactly the same, with any apparent differences being oppressive cultural constructs. To question this at all, even with scientific evidence, is howled down with shouts of “Racist!” and “Hate speech!” But the idea that the different genders and races naturally have different strengths and weaknesses, and thereby different ways in which they best contribute to society (speaking generally, admitting individual differences), has objective, empirical support; so if that is “sexism” or “racism,” then to that extent sexism and racism are true and valid. Yet I think almost all of those who endorse such “hate speech” would agree that everyone is equally human, and equally entitled to equal human rights, respect, and opportunity. So, we Americans are in the midst of a kind of culture war, and I consider Trump to be more on the side of empiricism, reason, and common sense, and more against a philosophically flimsy neo-liberal ideology.
     Consider the following long quote, which is actually from a vehemently anti-Trump article on the website nymag.com: 
For the white working class, having had their morals roundly mocked, their religion deemed primitive, and their economic prospects decimated, now find their very gender and race, indeed the very way they talk about reality, described as a kind of problem for the nation to overcome. This is just one aspect of what Trump has masterfully signaled as “political correctness” run amok, or what might be better described as the newly rigid progressive passion for racial and sexual equality of outcome, rather than the liberal aspiration to mere equality of opportunity.
Much of the newly energized left has come to see the white working class not as allies but primarily as bigots, misogynists, racists, and homophobes, thereby condemning those often at the near-bottom rung of the economy to the bottom rung of the culture as well. A struggling white man in the heartland is now told to “check his privilege” by students at Ivy League colleges. Even if you agree that the privilege exists, it’s hard not to empathize with the object of this disdain. These working-class communities, already alienated, hear — how can they not? — the glib and easy dismissals of “white straight men” as the ultimate source of all our woes. They smell the condescension and the broad generalizations about them — all of which would be repellent if directed at racial minorities — and see themselves, in Hoffer’s words, “disinherited and injured by an unjust order of things.”
And so they wait, and they steam, and they lash out.
The end of the first paragraph is indicative of what I just touched upon—a specious pseudoscientific ideology being forced upon the American people. The way it works is this: The ideology insists, based upon its own wishful thinking rather than upon empirical evidence, that both biological genders and all races are the same in every way, except for unfortunately undeniable, obvious physical differences. Consequently, ergo, if there is not exact sameness in career choices and material success, then there must be, ex hypothesi, oppression and a lack of equal opportunity. So things that men, and especially white men, do better than others on average, are seen as evidence or even proof of patriarchal oppression. Men come to be discriminated against in order to handicap them sufficiently that everyone else does everything as successfully as they do. Which of course weakens the country, but America is seen by the far left as a malignant force to be taken down anyhow. And many, many Americans are becoming thoroughly fed up with this, and are turning to Donald Trump as their champion. And they are not all ignorant hicks, and they are not all white racists and misogynists, and they are not all from the conservative right.
     Most professional politicians in America, especially those tending toward the left, are effectively crippled, or at least hobbled, by PC hysteria. I have no doubt that President Obama is basically a good man, and he’s obviously an intelligent one; but from being the idealist Great Hope he has declined into a political correctness puppet who is continually making a public fool of himself in order not to offend anybody. A relatively recent example of this occurred when a 14-year-old boy, a smartass kid who happened to be a Muslim, perpetrated a bomb hoax at his school. He took the insides out of an electric alarm clock and put them into a kind of suitcase, along with some other wires and stuff, so that it looked very much like a bomb. (He claimed to have “built a clock,” although simply taking the insides out of a case and putting them into a different case could hardly be called building a clock.) He then took this “clock” to school, where a teacher advised him not to carry it around from class to class, as people might get the wrong idea. The kid deliberately disregarded this advice, and not only carried it around, but provocatively was plugging the strange object into electrical outlets in a classroom and setting the alarm to go off in class. A teacher got worried and informed the principal, and the principal, out of concern for the school’s security, informed the police, and the police came to investigate and detained the bomb hoaxer—since, after all, the kid really had committed a crime, like mischievously bringing a fake bomb into an airport. Immediately the liberal media declared the school’s reaction to be politically incorrect Islamophobia, which caused a deluge of obsequious fawning on the 14-year-old provocateur. (His elder sister allegedly had already been temporarily expelled from school for a previous bomb threat.) The climax came when President Obama himself weakly and foolishly contacted the kid, praised his cool "clock," and invited him to the White House for a friendly visit. That is political correctness hysteria at the highest level, and a case that made Obama look like a fool around the world, kissing the backside of a teenage Islamic bomb hoaxer. Trump is unlikely to play such games.
     So one of the biggest reasons why I readily accept the idea of Trump being president is that I despise PC culture as a disgraceful retreat into regressive, mandatory groupthink and, if it consolidates its power, into eventual inquisitions, witch hunts, and rampant persecution of any who stand in its way. And at present, Trump is America’s greatest hope for an effective counter response.
     Before abandoning, for the time, the topic of “mandatory groupthink,” I will point out that if a cultural ideology were uplifting, strengthening, mostly true, and relatively “enlightened,” then I might be able to endorse its encouragement in a society, for the good of that society. But the ideology fueling PC is, as I’ve already mentioned, philosophically feeble, being based not upon empirical evidence or logic so much as on Gender Studies pseudoscience and sloppy, wishful thinking. Also it promotes intolerance, mass hysteria, and civil strife. At any rate I have little choice but to favor the political right in this case, otherwise before long I may be persecuted in America for being a Buddhist monk, thereby defying PC by appropriating Asian culture. (I wish this were a joke) Ironically, the political right in America has become the defender of classical liberal values abandoned by the left. It has also become, very interestingly, a haven for a new breed of counterculture, a new movement of intellectual rebels thirsting for freedom from a repressive system.
     This whole situation is not so divorced from genuine Dharma as many people might think. Freedom, as well as Truth, could be called my religion; a synonym for Nirvana is “Liberation”; and at present freedom of thought and expression is under attack not so much by fundamentalist Christians on the right as by fundamentalist regressives on the left, a.k.a. Cultural Marxists, a.k.a. social justice warriors. For those of you who are doubtful of what is going on in this regard, you might find interesting the linked video of a discussion of political correctness on the campus of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, with ultraliberals literally screaming in hysteria in an attempt to shut the whole discussion down. This is going on all over the country, not just at UMass Amherst. It’s going on at Trump rallies also, with most of the hatred, hostility, and howling hysteria coming from anti-Trump protesters on the political far left, as far as I have seen.
     >I may as well add that to some degree my preference of D. Trump to H. Clinton is simply a matter of personal taste. I would prefer a Putin to a Merkel as the strong, fearless leader of my country, and not only for pragmatic reasons. Putin comes closer to Captain Kirk also. In the war on testicles being waged in the West, with Western Europe and Canada already having succumbed, and Hillary C. the leader of the American Anti-Testicles Party, I have little choice but to vote in favor of cojones.
     All in all, I do not consider any of the candidates for US President to be anywhere near the position of Best Possible Person for the Job. And although Trump is clearly a huge gamble, since nobody really knows how good or bad of a president he would be, only he has even the potential to accomplish anything really “great.” Hillary Clinton’s election would be a practical guarantee of more of the same stuff, a continuation of a status quo leading to greater national debt, continued corruption and hypocrisy in politics, and more dangerous and harmful PC hysteria. Only Trump has any chance at all of correcting this, and I am willing to take that risk for the sake of my beloved country of origin. (That is one symptom of having cojones: a willingness to take risks.) I love America.
     Putting the situation extremely simply, Mr. Trump is the only candidate with the strength and the independence to swim against the current of a pathologically corrupt political system. President Obama may have had that strength at first, but before long he was swept along by the current of events and the momentum of the established political machine. And Hillary Clinton apparently has zero intention of swimming against the current; she is the representative of the establishment, she is its personification, its marionette, with plenty of strings attached to keep her in line.
     Recently it occurred to me that the SJWs, if they existed in the 1930s, would certainly, certainly be on the side of the appeasers for Hitler—you know, ideological supporters of Neville Chamberlain with his idea that if we just give Hitler what he wants, he'll calm down and become a nice person. They'd spit on “war mongers” like Winston Churchill for insisting from the beginning that Hitler must be resisted. They'd hysterically scream and rave in favor of appeasing Hitler, hating the guts of politically incorrect, “hate speech”-spewing resisters. I betcha they'd be exactly like that. They’re already like that with regard to appeasing radical Islamists. As I said at the beginning of this discussion, or propaganda tract, or whatever it is, cold, hard facts must take precedence over virtuous ideology in the realm of politics if a political entity is to survive and prosper. But really, I do not see the Clinton Democrats as really holding the moral high ground. Trump appears to have non-hypocrisy more on his side at any rate. Plus he probably is not in favor of men dressed like women hanging around in women’s public restrooms.
     Getting back to Winston Churchill, just recently I heard a reference to a message that Franklin Roosevelt sent to Churchill just a day before he (Roosevelt) died. I have been unable to locate the exact quote, so I paraphrase it from memory. There was some kind of crisis afoot (remember, this was during WWII), and the dying Roosevelt advised Churchill not to take it too seriously, as crises are continually cropping up in this world, and most of them have a way of working themselves out. That’s a useful thing to bear in mind, I think. We often appear to be racing toward a cliff or brick wall, so it’s easy to prophesy doom; but we humans do have some common sense, and we usually make adjustments sufficient to avert disaster, usually. So fear mongering over the current rise of an ugly political far left and a resultant culture war in the USA, or over a Trump presidential administration, is probably unnecessary, although it can make interesting reading, and it can give some perspective on an alternative point of view.
     Those of you who are not Americans (and my blog stats indicate that about half of you are not), may see American cultural upheavals as typical of American silliness and foolishness. For the most part you are correct; although this same silliness is largely the product of freedom of thought, one of the most sacred ideals of the United States, no matter how much that ideal is sometimes trampled. This same freedom that allows howling hysteria over trivial quasi-issues also allows for genius, for genius most readily arises from chaos.



...or, vote for Oat Willie




NOTE: In order to forestall political bickering back and forth, ad nauseam, I do not intend to publish comments to this post. Deal with it.




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