• Law, Policy -- and IT?

    Tracy Mitrano explores the intersection where higher education, the Internet and the world meet (and sometimes collide).

Title

Resentment

A failure of virtue.

 

June 4, 2017
 
 

David Brooks, New York Times columnist and commentator on PBS News Hour, was never before my favorite but of late he has routinely been hitting the nail on the head when it comes to his assessment of Donald Trump and the effect that his presidency is having on the United States. A reasonable, Republican, his disappointment was unmistakable in the wake of the announcement that the United States will leave the Paris accord. If you are not familiar with him, watch this video of his comments on the PBS News Hour last week. 

I have circled around similar analysis in my posts.  While I know that many of my readers would prefer that I move on to discuss the role of information security officers or how to address information technology policy in higher ed, I simply cannot go without commenting on the emotional quality of President Trump’s announcement last week.  David Brooks captured my thoughts almost entirely.  Trump’s positions are not based on facts, or science, or reasonable policy but on resentment.  That emotion motives virtually every comment he makes or perspective he takes.  So I am going to spend the remainder of this post analyzing it.

Donald Trump is an enthusiast.  Many personality assessments might look at results and label him “a leader.” He has those qualities but that is not his base personality.  His success in business is grounded in touting his brand. His limited vocabulary, and truncated expressions, bespeak a salesman. Everything is “beautiful” or “the best.”  He hyped his potential presidency on the campaign trail not with facts but cheerleading techniques.  In a contented state, his enthusiasm would be joyous and gracious.  Instead, it is unremittingly acid and critical.  If one accepts David Brooks' assessment, that perspective is so abiding that it comes at the expense of a reality-based interpretation of the world around him.

For a man who has made billions of dollars, who has chosen to take three wives (and evidently many other women according to his own boasts), who has five healthy and attractive children, and who lives a life of riches and splendor, it is a rather remarkable perspective. Most people with those gifts would be spending time at their luxury resorts, showing off his gorgeous wife, and, one might hope, whipping up fervor for foundations to help other people. Unfortunately not. It would appear that Mr. Trump never made the transition from a youthful drive to succeed to a mature man grateful for his success.

In a previous post, I mentioned that an astrologer told me that Donald Trump and the United States have similar trajectories.  Setting skepticism about astrology aside for the moment and drawing on this thought as nothing more than a metaphor, let’s explore what that observation, together with the fact that polls have him resonating with at least some 30-odd percent of the U.S. population, suggests for its larger meaning. I will pull no punches in this assessment.  Hold on, it is a broad sweep of history but with the intent not to quibble about dates but to to speak to the psychological state of contemporary United States.

Early British, Irish, and Dutch colonists came for religious freedom and business purposes. There is no political correctness involved in the recognition that it was at the expense of original peoples, most of whom died from disease, but also from war and conquest.  Notions of white supremacy fitted neatly into internal African struggles and the external Atlantic trade triangle to provide the European with an ancient form of labor needed to civilize in the European tradition the Americas.  umping through decades of American expansion, the United States settled its labor issues in the mid-nineteenth century and invited millions of people from Eastern and Southern Europe, Asia, Central and South America to join its industrializing ranks.  By the middle of the twentieth-century, it is triumphant over the Americas and of principal influence throughout the world.  Whatever its faults, and I would be among the first to make a list, the United States remains the wealthiest country in the world to date.  By the most grand historical accounts, a spectacular achievement. 

Is it any wonder that other countries want to develop too?  Is it any wonder that other countries would want to challenge U.S. power throughout the world?  If it is, it shouldn’t be.  History of the Koreas, Southeast Asia, the Philippines, Central and South America, and the Middle East and Africa attest to this moment.  From a human perspective, it’s completely understandable.  The real question is what does the United States, as a nation, as a leader, as a world-historical power want to do about that natural progression of world politics?
In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, the United States demonstrated exceptional foreign diplomacy in policies such as the Marshall Plan.  That plan was exceptional because it accepted the total surrender of Germany and Japan and their allies as the washing away of reparations and the start of a helping hand for those powerhouses to develop along lines that worked productively with the United States.  The Pax Americana that this and other plans produced is world-historical.  Any historian of Europe will note that there has not been a period since the Roman Empire where Europe has enjoyed so much peace and prosperity. Asia has arisen apace. That history is not because the victorious United States was bitter, angry and resentful, but because it was joyous, generous and prosperous. 

I am skipping over an enormous amount of history, but bear with me, I am trying to make a point. How did we get to a resentful psychology as representative of all of us, even if, all things considered, we take into account that the electoral vote was not for this president, that the election may have been won through untoward Russian influence (whatever spin this week Putin wants to put on it), and that there are deep and concerning matters of domestic policy that require serious redress?  Here is where I will give it to readers straight: because we lack, as a society, the appropriate understanding to appreciate our gifts.  As the country that benefited the most from industrialization (and its pollutants), we should be the last country in the world to walk away from the Paris accord.  To poke a finger in the eye of the rest of the world is gratuitous, not gracious.  Don’t tell me about the two billion we save given the proposed tax cuts to the super-rich. This decision defies common sense.

From this administration there is no sense of responsibility, not to our own people in the United States who suffer from greedy pharmaceutical and other corporate giants that take gross advantage of people in the United States (including with the use of personal data, hello Big Five, now let’s add the telecoms to that list) or to people outside of the United States who want nothing more than an opportunity to advance. Instead, we have a pinched, mean perspective, one that is not grounded in facts but in the psychological challenges of the man who decided it and a third of the population hoodwinked into believing that he represents their interests. 

"Enough is enough” Prime Minister Theresa May has said about the terrorist attacks in London.  Enough is enough here in the United States. There is no rational basis for this country to continue on a psychological course that runs counter to its objective development as a civilization and as a world power.  Where there are narcissistic wounds, it is time to bind them up.  Where there is resentment, we should remind ourselves of our gifts and extend consideration to the deserving people in the United States as well as to immigrants and to people around the world who believe in us.  Where there is bitterness, we should look upon the rest of the world with which we are in relationship and recognize commitment. For Christ’s sake … as my parents might have begun a sentence … let me add to their plea and begin a new vocabulary ... for Yahweh’s sake, for Allah’s sake … and so forth … United States, wake up!  
 

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