Donald Trump was only a symptom of our era, not its cause
Great article. Appreciate you reflecting on how this problem is playing out in Canada. I've never been overly partisan, but have been so dismayed to see the erosion of democracy in Canada during the Trudeau years. Your article captured the heart of the problem: This government, so convinced of its moral superiority, feels no shame. The deeper problem is that the partisans who support them also feel no shame; it matters little how poorly this government behaves, it faces no consequences from the electorate.
Agreed - politicians used to take responsibility for their actions and resign, or in Japan fall on their swords, for committing major screw-ups or losing confidence, or losing"face". No more. Now we are born with original sin (on Saturday) and apologize and repent on Sunday.
Not sure if its an age thing, but the older I get (Gen'Xr) the less I like snark/sarcasm and insincerity. I know there is a lot of room for outrage and satire and criticism, but in the end, everyone has to stand FOR something-- otherwise like you say, Nihilism. Way too many people (it seems) want to play toy revolutionary these days and "burn it all down".. And then what?... I guess in many ways this is not new. I remember in a uni course back in the 80s reading "Fathers and Sons" and thinking, "Holy shit this feels fresh" and more recently, "American Pastoral."
Oh my, this is good. Thanks for this contribution, Andrew Potter.
Shame - and the shared values it implied- was destroyed over time for money. I remember being horrified by Morton Downey Junior AND lifestyles of the rich and famous because they both had no shame, in the two ways that have now manifested in this Trumpy nihilism. Good piece.
Politics is downstream of culture, as Andrew Breitbart said. We live in a vulgar age, being told to follow your heart, anything goes, don't worry about what other people say, be yourself.
Loud, obnoxious, rude, crude. What people call "the ugly American". Trump was the perfect embodiment of this.
At least he rolled back the neocon, "fuck the EU" establishment. For a while anyway.
And pushing the Bushes and Clintons out did the world a service. I can't think of anyone else who could have accomplished that
So hard to think about Canada at all, when this topic is raised, particularly so close to the anniversary of whatever-you-call-it in Washington DC.
The "shame" I was thinking of should be pretty strong. The Vietnam war was sold with a faked-up incident in the Gulf of Tonkin. Then, the Gulf War was sold with a complete fabrication about "babies thrown from incubators". (The shame there should have not just been GWH Bush and his staff, but the journalists who failed to check whether the Kuwaiti "nurse" with the "testimony" was actually the Kuwaiti Ambassador's daughter, coached by Hill & Knowlton PR. Shame, WaPo.)
Then the Iraqi War was sold with a freaking *conspiracy theory* that imagined Saddam Hussein - who didn't trust his own in-laws out of his control - was about to invent a nuclear bomb, then promptly hand it to foreign religious nuts from Saudi. And the papers bought that one, too, though a there's a whole movie ("Shock and Awe") about how they shouldn't have. Shame!
America had a lot of shame to go around, long before Trump. Really, Trump was just the guy who said, "hey, if people will buy that pile of crap, they'll buy my pile of crap".
Why should public figures with power feel shame? They got away with torture, nobody even wants to look into it. Should the feel shame over slavery and Jim Crow? It's being made illegal to even study those shameful histories.
Canadian politicians will display visible, genuine shame about our own sins, when the populace they serve starts feeling ashamed of residential schools and so forth. We don't, so they don't; in a democracy, we've got the government we deserve.
I had to look up nihilism to refresh my understanding of the word. Beside the definition there was a picture of Steve Bannon. His work on Brexit was just a warm-up. Crazy + smart and devious = dangerous.
As for Trump, "because he doesn’t accept any restrictions on his own behaviour, he is implicitly giving permission to his followers to pretty much do as they please. It’s for good reason that Trump has been widely blamed for normalizing a culture of extreme social deviance and moral nihilism." It was interesting to see his fans turn on him when he recommended vaccinations. It occurred to me that that is the first time he had expressed any limits on behaviour and that's what was upsetting them. He is a living "Get-out-of-responsibility free" card.
Great piece, with sentiments applicable on both sides of the political divide in Canada... Look to the UCP in Alberta for 'Trump lite', Canadian-style, and to the Liberals for the smarmy, holier-than-thou AND no-shame attitude. I think Erin O'Toole is trying to move back to the 'big-tent' type of Tory, though we'll see how that plays out...
This is a fascinating article. Thank you.
Well written ! I'd ask you to e-mail this to our politicians , but doubt they would understand.
"... he (Trump) is quite possibly most vulgar human being alive"? Typical leftist/Liberal/liberal take on Trump proving that you do not understand the difference between words and 'behaviour'. Trump simply says out loud what many/most think of the political and media insanity that has taken over the American civic and social compact that has been the bedrock of its success. He just does not abide the faux veneer spewed by the "elites" that hides the truth.
Now that's a scary word 'nihilism' but somehow correct.