Donald J Trump is a threat to humanity.

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It takes a war, a Great War, a Second World War to teach us values. It’s crude but effective. Thatcher before the Falkland’s War, behind in the polls, goes on to win in a landslide. The problem with the dead is they don’t stay dead. The Somme, six-million Jews, Hiroshima, Nagasaki. The dead stay frozen, when homes fit for heroes remain unmade, and resurface minutes, hours, days, years, decades later as a soundbite to be counted off, or a source of information. Then we’ve done our duty and forget them. In today’s world it’s difficult to imagine the publication of the Beveridge Report being a bestseller at home and with our servicemen abroad coming home to vote in a Labour and Attlee government.  Labour’s finished. We’d hope for the future then. We can denigrate the dead –six million Jews didn’t die, they stayed in Butlin’s holiday camps and were allowed out to eat ice-cream but never came back – and say an action, a genocide, never happened. Information does not add up. Bullshit. False new. Lies. Propaganda.

The moron’s moron that avoided the draft to Vietnam because he was rich and white, not because it was right, has blundered from one thing to another in a long list of photo opportunities in which he plays the leading man.  Prime Ministers such as Teresa May are dragged onstage and made to smile and dance to his tune. His latest ruse was to sack the director of the FBI, James Comey and explain why it was necessary tweet by tweet in which the narrative changed. You’re fired is not a reality TV show, but real life at the White House.  He’s tried to govern by executive order and found his path blocked. On the international stage he’s come up Trump with the Mother of All Bombs. That’s a flexing of muscles. I imagine him as  the kind of crazy rear-hatch gunner role in a Chinook that plans to kill all gooks, especially those North Korean bastards, while everybody in the KKK tells him what a great guy he is. Reality bites. He has the nuclear capacity to end all life in his locker. The moron’s moron is dumb enough because he doesn’t believe in science, doesn’t believe in certainty, it never ends badly in the movies and he did want to become an actor.

When you surround yourself with right-wing hawks everyone else begins to look like carrier pigeons. Fresh meat. The moron’s moron is blocking the future. I’m worried. And I’m not the only one.

I was reading an interview with Tony Kushner (Angels in America) and all those scribbles in my notebook made sense.

‘What do I have to complain about? There’s no possibility of living anywhere other than on a knife edge of terror when Donald Trump is president. Every sentient being has to be widely alarmed’.

Amen.

Born to Kill, Channel 4.

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http://www.channel4.com/programmes/born-to-kill

This is the first episode of a four-part drama. I won’t be watching the other three episodes. I know the formula – a thrill at every advert break. So like Coronation Street or Emmerdale or whatever soap you watch something big is going to leave you wanting more than your cuppa and something small is left hanging during advert breaks to bring you back with a Kit Kat. Labelling theory contends that what people say you are, you end up ingesting that message and  being. If teenager Sam (Jack Rowan), a model school kid who thwarts bullies bullying another kid on the school bus and spends his time in the hospital reading to old codgers in the geriatric wing and telling them jokes, he’s obviously up to no good because he’s born to kill. Nature or nurture? Well, his mum who is also a nurse on a geriatric ward, Jenny, (Romola Garia) thinks he’s a good kid. Most mums do. Some scenes hint at a kind of incestuous relationship, but that may be how Sam is reading it, because he’s a psychopath. He’s born to kill. Empathy is not something psychopaths do, but they can learn to mimic being human, in the same way that the moron’s moron, Donald Trump can mimic being a President by blowing up the world. Born to kill. Jenny has the dim, dark secret beloved of thrillers and it’s not very secret, her ex-partner is also a psychopath, but he’s liable to come calling…advert time. Then there’s Chrissy (Lara Peake), the new girl at the school. She is grungy, not born to kill, but is an arsonist. She sets fire to the science lab, probably because she was bored and making a statement about moving house, going to a new school and teenage angst. . That’s the kind of friends psychopaths hang about with. Like attracts like. Jenny ends up getting detention for trying to burn the school down. As does Sam, who’s mum thinks he’s really a good kid, because he tries to take the rap for Jenny’s misdemeanours. Jenny’s dad, Bill (Daniel Mays) is a cop, a detective sergeant, so he knows if her arson attack had killed a classroom of kids, she was liable to get detention and lines, having to copy on the blackboard a million times ‘I must not kill my classmates or I’m a psychopathic killer like Sam, but it’s not my fault. I’m stroppy and misunderstood. An amateur. He’s the psycho’. Phew. I’m even tired after that. A bit of times tables tells us one psycho multiplied by another psycho, for example, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, Fred and Rosemary West, means a whole lot of trouble and more detention time.

You know how it goes, Born to Kill is a modern psychological drama starred a new and upcoming actor…must see…not for me.

 

The Problem with Donald J Trump is Donald J Trump.

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Donald J Trump’s mother, Mary came from the Isle of Lewis. There’s more than one Scottish word for her son. Bawbag is a good Scottish word to start with.

Perhaps Robert Burns, our national bard,  put it better in The Cotter’s Saturday Night, the kind of dwelling his mother Mary came from:

An honest man’s the noblest work of God;

And certes in fair virtue’s heavenly road;

What is a lording’s pomp? a cumbrous load,

Disguising oft the wretch of human kind,

Studied in arts of hell, in wickedness refin’d

Here’s Donald J’s take on intelligence. He holds up his first-born son for the camera and tells his audience he wants his son to be ‘strong, tough and vicious and I hope intelligent.’ Intelligence is an afterthought, and add on. Being vicious that’s the thing. Be a killer.

Donald is his father, Fred’s son. Freddy’s first born wasn’t smart. He did dumb things like when he was put in charge of a housing project he gave the tenants new window. Donald’s take on that was he was soft, a great guy, very, very intelligent, everybody liked him, but they took advantage of him.

I’m not as dumb as George W Bush and its worth remembering when it came to counting the chads in 2000, an election he lost, asked for a recount because he’d ran out of fingers and toes, but the numbers came up right and he won, even though he didn’t know who or what a chad was. Curtis Sittenfeld, American Wife’s narrator is a bookish girl that grows into a woman that marries somebody like George W Bush, who can’t be trusted to run the family firm and becomes United States President to keep him out of harm’s way. Lionel Shriver asks much the same question of Donald J Trump, that most writers do, ‘Faced with current reality, how can fiction compete?’

Donald J Trump cheerfully admits he is a cartoon character and yet he is the forty-fifth President of the United States. I’d like to say I predicted that. And I did, I did, but I’ve a tendency to say when playing The Chase on telly when the correct answer is read out, and out of three options I’ve got some part of it wrong, most part of it wrong, but I’m right because that’s the one I meant. Lining up reality and opinion is not always that easy, but fantasy always figures and finds the shortest route and in a post-factual society finds its way to the truth, by not being the truth, or a neologism in the Oxford dictionary, but a simulacrum. Who really cares about that stuff?  I like to quote Socrates, ‘Speak so I can see you,’ so that I can seem more intelligent. If we tried that experiment with Trump taking away his orange face, shiny suit and swept back blond mop and left the screen blank and simply listened to him, you’d laugh, because he lisps  and not like an eight-year old girl, but not Liza Simpson, and that’s a fact that’s been tested. You’d be saying grow up. Read a book. Something else Donald J admits he never does. Only dumb smucks have the time to read. But he’s published an international bestseller. The Art of the Deal. He didn’t write it, of course, but it’s his, because it’s got his name on the cover. Tony Schwatz who wrote the book shadowed Trump. He liked that, people following him about, disciples. A kid showing you his toys. Matt Damon mentioned it in a recent interview. Trump’s propensity to pop up when they were filming on his property and sneak into shot.  You see a snapshot of it in Anthony Bartlett’s Dispatches programme entitled President Trump’s Dirty Secrets. In truth his connection to big oil and his disdain for little people isn’t much of a secret. Any dolt with an internet connection can spend five minutes and find out everything that you need to know about Trump and even Putin’s not-so-secret dossier of Trump cavorting with two prostitutes in a hotel room and them peeing on a bed. Look more closely at the images outside the hotel room and you’ll see him squeezing the flesh of contestants at the Miss Universe contest, a project which he bought and owns. Perhaps he plans to buy a contestant and bring her home and put on the mantlepiece to replace Melanina. Before he buys he likes to try them, not that he’d know what droit de seigneur means, but he understand enough to know that the people that buy the land owns the people in the land and that give him the right to push up against them and feel them up. He’s admitted as much, boy’s stuff, locker-room chat. Not rape, of course, because the women were gagging for it. His lawyers say so.  And his toys are irresistible. Trump is happy hosting. See as an example Bartlett schmoozing in his car, Trump’s telling him how much the car cost and how the seat-belts are gold, yeh, real gold.

But Trump knows about discipline. He was sent to a military school when he went too far and his father, Fred, found he’d bought a flick knife. One of his classmates remembered him as being, and I’m thinking how to paraphrase this, an empty jacket. Someone that is hanging on the peg but isn’t all there. Psychopath, devoid of compassion, all human feelings, apart from vanity. Schwartz tells how Trump liked to start the day with what was in the news about him. Narcissus looking into a stream of photo feeds. Now he’s won the biggest beauty contest in the world, the American Presidency it will be a full-time job. The worry is he’ll not like what he sees or hears. A multiple bankrupt that has never been poor. A groper and potential rapist that has never been called to account or arrested. A non-tax payer whose father’s business was based on scamming the federal dollar to build houses for ex-servicemen. A Manhattan businessman that broke Federal laws and refused to sell or lease apartments to blacks and explained to young persecuting attorney, Elyse Goldweather, in an aside she admitted she couldn’t quite belief she was hearing, ‘Now, Elyse, you don’t want to live with them either.’ Black lives matter, but only to black people. The Ku Klux Khan represented in office. Right-wing feeds triumphant and showing Melanina replacing an image of a First Lady taken from the Planet of the Apes. Trump a boy that went to military academy but avoided the draft to serve in the military, but denigrates those that did has become Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces. You couldn’t make it up.

The FBI and CIA accuse him of being Putin’s dupe. Donald will sort it. He’ll win the war by tweets. Ewan McMullin, a former CIA officer tweeted: ‘While you avoided the draft, John Lewis risked his life for equality in America. You’ll never dream of such selfless patriotism.’

Donald J Trump settled his hash, he became President and boasted about how many Twitter followers he had in comparison to crooked Hillary. Fake news  such as ‘thousands and thousands’ of Muslims in Jersey City cheered as The World Trade Center crashed can be viewed on YouTube, alongside his pledges to build a wall along the Mexican border and make the Mexican government pay for it. The sting in the tail here is every comma in every sentence, every shady deal Trump has ever made will be uncovered. There is no hiding place when you are the American President. He asked to see Obama’s birth certificate. His detractors in a divided America will be asking to see a lot more than that.

Twitter feed, that’s where you’ll find the American President. 140 character tweets of what Trump’s policy is going to be, telling you what he and America is going to do next. There is a conflation here that Walt Disney might recognise, what is good for Donald J Trump is good for America and what it good for America is good for Donald J Trump. American Presidents are supposed to set up a blind trust, transparent so that they have no interests which conflict with that of running government and they should not directly, or indirectly, profit from the office of government. Nepotism and public office should also be divorced. The ethics committee set up to look into Trump’s financial arrangements for when he moves from becoming President elect to President started laughing. Cartoon characters are always funny, even when they’re trying to be serious. You love them or hate them and that is why Trump’s inauguration will not be a smooth transition from the outgoing President to the President elect, but the biggest protest since the Vietnam War divided America. Then again, I could be wrong on this. The business as usual model is stronger than any ideologue. Al Gore won more votes than George W Bush in 2000 Hillary Clinton gained 2.9 million more votes in 2016, both Democrats lost. To the winners the spoils. The casino President gambled and won. The billionaire daddy that says he’s too rich to care about money appoints his chum Ben Carson as housing tsar. Expect tens of millions or billions of US federal dollars to flow into the Trump real-estate coffers. Expect Trumps portfolio and investment in fossil fuels to grow exponentially. Oil is once more king. Alaska, with the help of global warming, a fish bowl open to being mined. One of his advisers – Paris Treaty on Global Warming, joke. Let’s laugh and end with that joke for a cartoon President.

Burt Reynolds summed Trump up as a fun guy, ‘but he might just start a war’.   He is the most powerful man in the world and could end the world in a tweet. And that’s no joke, but a worry. The world’s big worry, even greater than the backlash of the persecution of the poor, more worrying than the rise and rise of the super rich and the inevitable rise in global warming and pollution of our blue planet in a death march of rising acidic seas and failing crops and tens of millions on the move.  Inconceivable, as it seems, the question must be asked, like Bush, can Trump serve two terms as President? Is he despite his dimness, crafty enough, vicious enough? Or will the world end in a ball of fire first. I’m repeating myself, as Trump does. Listen to him. He says the same thing again and again and again and again, until you believe him. Funny, eh?

 

Book of the year. Peter Wadhams (2016) A Farewell to Ice. A Report From the Arctic.

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A writer has one imperative, or simple rule – read. Often I have little understanding of what I’m reading. Usually there is a but here. I do not understand Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, but…kinda like a meme from T. S. Eliot’s Little Gidding: ‘We shall not cease from exploration/And the end of all our exploring/Will be to arrive where we started.’ Or Rumi’s parable of the elephant and six blind men. One holding onto a leg, or trunk, an ear, and explaining to the other what in the world stands true. Wadhams’ A Farewell to Ice is a familiar tale and it is distilled into a line of poetry he quotes from mystic Francis Thompson: ‘Thou canst not stir a flower/Without troubling of a star’.

Like Jonah preaching to the Ninevites and warning them they have forty days, Wadhams is telling us much the same thing about the accelerating effects of Arctic Feedbacks on our once blue planet. He is not giving us forty days, but perhaps forty years and we’re pretty much gubbed, sackcloth and ashes.

The trigger is fossil fuels, measured in parts per million, and what he is saying is mankind has already fired the bullet. I employ a simple rule of thumb, when a pessimist is also a realist, usually he’s right. Think of Thomas Piketty Capital documenting how after the end of the 1970s money flowed at increasing rates from the poor to the rich in the developed world. Like Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, I don’t need to know all the details. I can believe it is true, or not, which is an act of faith. But Piketty as an economist showed us how he got to where he is and said, very simply, prove me wrong. Wadham does the same. Here is my data and here is my message: ‘We must not only go to zero emissions, we must actually remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere’ (italics around text are Wadhams’). He suggests a real danger with hundreds of millions starving, and also  the possibility of nuclear war.

What Wadhams didn’t factor in was the Donald Trump factor and the appointment of former General ‘Mad Dog’ Maddis as United States Defense Secretary, or the President Elect’s provocation with China over the sovereignty of South Korea even before he takes office. We live in interesting times.

But Wadhams is on more familiar ground with his outing of ‘The Black Tide of Denial’ and how fossil fuel interests have taken a hatchet to budgets and attempted to discredit those that support the claims of global warming in the same way that Communists were thought to be under every bed in the McCarthy era. Wadham gives several examples of attacks on himself and other scientists, but perhaps the best example comes from Jamie Doward, The Observer, ‘How the trolling of a tech pioneer reveals a new assault on climate science’: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/04/elon-musk-trolling-us-conservatives-green-tech

Wadham could not have predicted prior to publication this year that the trolls that produced such propaganda would not only try to influence decisions about climate change, but would be appointed as judges of what was right and wrong. All that ‘green crap’ referred to by David Cameron is dead in the water. An analogy would be fifty years ago appointing directors of the big five tobacco companies as independent advisors of whether there was a link between smoking and cancer. The difference now, of course, is we’ve not got fifty years. The enemy is at the door now. And our blue planet does not care what you believe, or whether you believe it is right or wrong. The earth will keep turning. One million years is not the equivalent of a minute in the day. Pseudo-science and greed has given voice and grown arms and legs. Perhaps reason will meet sense, but I doubt it. We are too far down the path. As above, so below and all parts are interconnected.

Listen to a quote in Wadhams from a voice of reason, scientist and Professor Robert P. Abele.

As we inflict violence on the planet to the point of mortality, we inflict violence on ourselves, to the point of our mortality. A dead planet will result in dead people, and a people and/or its leaders who are psychologically and/or ethically desensitized to the consequences of this Terran violence have no chance of long-term survival.

Read this book. Share this post. Ask a simple question: what can we do?

America’s Mussolini: Donald J Trump.

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Hyperbole: hyperbole

hʌɪˈpəːbəli/Submit

noun

exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.

synonyms: exaggeration, overstatement, magnification, amplification, embroidery, embellishment, overplaying, excess, overkill.

Pre-Trump becoming the 45th American President and post-Trump, taking up tenure of office and becoming United States President, is not will Donald J Trump, last the four-year term, but will the world? That may seem like an exaggeration, overkill, embellishment, exaggeration and other synonyms associated with the American Benito Mussolini. This is one of Gay Talese’s characters, an apologist, writing in his diary in Paris around 1937 and giving his description of Mussolini as a dictator, before the pact with Hitler, but could equally apply to Donald J Trump:

Mussolini…a man with more bark than bite, an egotist, with perhaps a neurotic need to gain other people’s attention; yet he thought the Duce could be reasoned with, must be reasoned with…only a dictator could have restored order.

Trump’s soundbites suggest that one of his strengths is his ‘unpredictability’.

Benito Mussolini, aged 39, was the youngest premier in Italy’s short history (as an independent nation) but like Trump, he had come out of nowhere to lead the party and lead the country. The tone of business leaders in Italy’s demands (listed below) has a very modern ring. They could have come from and most have been enacted by state governor and Tea Party supporter, Vice President, in waiting, Mike Pence, who some commentator’s see as a moderating influence on America’s Mussolini. Think about that, moderating influence.

  1. Smaller state bureaucracies
  2. Fewer strikes
  • More tax concessions
  1. Less zeal towards the breakup of large estates
  2. Termination of rent control
  3. Reduction in unemployment benefits
  • Fewer annoying enquires concerning surplus war profits
  • Fewer annoying enquires concerning tax evasion.

 

Reading this you’d think we’ve went backwards in time to the 1930s and world is no longer as safe as it was pre-Trumpeter, with shocks and aftershocks still to come. Ask yourself one question: What legacy do you think President Trump will leave the world?

Trump has ripped up political consensus and confounded the same pollsters that, state for state, confidently predicted Obama’s first and second term of office. How did Trump do it? One word, populism. ‘I put lipstick on a pig,’ said Tony Schwartz, Trump’s ghost-writer for the Art of the Deal.   http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/07/25/donald-trumps-ghostwriter-tells-all Here we are again talking about excess. Let’s throw in some other synonyms: overstatement, embroidery and the moth-eaten cliché, tapestry of lies, attention span of a gnat, the narcissism of well, Donald Trump. He bought the rights to Miss World and now he’s won the biggest beauty contest of them. When he says that something is true, he believes it too, Schwartz tells us.  Try on the term crooked Hilary—repeat ad nauseum, until it produces bumpers stickers and posters and then repeat again, until a lie becomes the truth and an association with Hitler— even although 95% of mainstream media backed Clinton to win this campaign it was not enough. Trump instead relied on digital leverage and the power of Facebook and Twitter. Donald Trump has double the number of Twitter followers compared to Hilary Clinton. And he had an army of Twitter followers he employed to tweet that he had won Presidential debates before, during and after the antagonists had finished debating. Newsfeeds about Trump being a misogynist groper and potential rapist were played down as simple dirty tricks from a propaganda machine aligned with an elite group led by crooked Hilary. Trumps other outbursts in Twitter land were understandable and supposedly taken out of context.  Trump, of course, questioned President Obama’s right to be President and famously followed the line of the Birther movement and asked him to produce his birth certificate. Black lives matter, but only to black people. The Irish famine brought millions of Irish to the new world. There were calls to ship them back in their coffin ships. Wops and Eyeties, particularly from the darker skinned natives of Southern Italy led to immigration restrictions in the 1930s. Build a wall with Mexico to keep out the rapists and thieves is a familiar tune. Do not ask how many millions the billionaire and President of the United States has stolen by avoiding tax payments. Only stupid and the poor pay tax. Feed into the disillusionment of globalization, job losses and wages rolled back to levels predating 1970; the tens of millions of Americans that start the day in debt and finish their day in more debt was, and remains, a powerful force for change. Fly the flag. Play the Trump card of nationalism. There’s nothing new here. Read any extract from Robert Tressell (Noonan’s) The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist  and remember the author’s contempt was not just for those who blamed society’s failings on anyone but themselves, but went to church and prayed away the degradations of the other. Ban abortion. Ban gays. Ban. Ban. Ban. Gun control. Forget that. This from a nation that jails a higher percentage of the population that any other nation including China, Russia and all other nations added together. Putin sent his congratulations to President Trump. Marine Le Penn called it right with her statement ‘their world is collapsing ours is being built’. The echo chambers of Twitter fed Facebook pages in which a digital nation relies on to frame its news. Most folk don’t leave the silos of their Facebook pages and makes the lie a truth others need. In simpler days, when everybody grew their own food in the back garden and read the bible for fun, bullshit wasn’t spun into gold, well not always.

 

coming soon trump house.jpgNow Trump has gone nuclear and has the codes, the panic room has been taken out of the White House and moved to the rest of the world. Hyperbolic, of course, but it would make good television and boost Trump’s ratings and make him seem like a strong leader. ‘I’d nuke Isis’, Trump told us.

Forget NATO, Trump has called it ‘obsolete’. Forget those outside of America, places like Ukraine and Georgia; they can take care of themselves. America has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world and can and will negotiate from a position of strength. Plan B. Nuke them.

Obama Care. It’s poor people so nobody really cares. The market will provide.

Forget the international trade deals, particularly those made with the new superpower in the block, China. America and Trump, the terms are interchangeable, will negotiate from a position of strength, which, of course, means, not negotiating and showing how unpredictable he can be.

Trade wars and the race to the bottom.  China now stands in the position that America did before the beginning of the first world war. Putin is Russia’s strong man. The EEC the world’s largest market. Winners and losers? Spin the globe. Place your bets.

The Paris Agreement and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Control worked on the assumption they had an agreement global warming was taking place and globally we need to restrict our use of fossil fuels. Donald Trump doesn’t. Neither does his Vice President Mike Pence. Bought-and-paid-for fossil-fuel scientists have modeled a better world. A safer world.  It’s the equivalent of tobacco companies telling smokers another fag won’t kill him. Let’s not expect politicians, or people that have not read a book since forced to in the classroom, like Donald J Trump boasts, to  understand inconvenient facts. If he listened to inconvenient truths crooked Hilary Clinton would be sitting in the White House. The four horsemen of the apocalypse just saddled up. More hyperbole, I guess, I hope.

 

 

Gay Talese (1992) Unto the Sons.

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I’m not sure how to write reviews. Usually, I start by saying something about the writer, such as I knew nothing about Gay Talese until I read an interview with him in The Observer Review, which focused on his latest book, the name of which I can’t remember, but the story centered around a man who ran a hotel and peeked through the ceiling at the room below and the couples that had sex in them. That piqued my interest. Next up, an online interview with Gay Talese in The Paris Review. I liked what he had to say. So I went to my local library (yes, libraries still exist) and got a book out. Quiet a hefty book, 629 pages and the author’s notes. It could have been any of Talese’s books, over almost a fifty-year period he’s written, according to my flawed reckoning, seven.

Unto the Sons is an epic that spans the Napoleonic wars, the taking and making of Italy by Garibaldi and the First and Second World Wars. To call it autobiographical would be an understatement and a bit like calling War and Peace a story about Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow. Napoleon does feature here, a background figure. Flickering in the foreground was one of his generals Murat, who was married to his sister (or sister-in-law) but was known as the King of Naples, a dismissive term in both books, but here he appears to lead a rebellion and take back what he imagined to be his kingdom from the Bourbon king, Victor Emmanuel III. Murat has a walk on role, because Naples is near Maida, in the South of Italy. That’s important because everything springs from that soil including the people and their customs and their antagonism to the people in the North of Italy who take everything good and give nothing back.

Gay’s father Joseph is a tailor, made good in the new land, with his own business in Ocean City, New Jersey, a naturalized citizen, jingoistic in support of the war effort, but fearful for his relatives fighting for the Italians and the Axis powers, relatives of his brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of the soil of Maida. He prays daily to St Francis of Paola, a son of the southern Italian soil and a miracle worker. Like many young boys Gay finds this distasteful and embarrassing.

Usually, when reviewing a book you stick in something that spoke to you. Something that resonates. Perhaps even to show the agnostics that you have read the book. On a day when Donald J Trump becomes the forty-fifth President of the United States I was struck by a passage featuring one of the protagonists that the book follows (based I guess on the diaries he left), Joseph’s elder cousin by four years, Antonio who had fought for Italy and France in the First World War, and whom a younger Joseph lived and worked for briefly in Paris, before moving further from his homeland to America. Here Antonio, an avowed Fascist living and working in a Paris not yet occupied by the Germans, takes stock of the Duce, Mussolini,  whom he privately thinks has done some good things and can’t really do any great harm (and we know what happened next) and his thoughts mirror my own about Trump’s possible trajectory.

Antonio saw Mussolini as a man with more bark than bite, an egotist with perhaps a neurotic need to gain other people’s attention, yet he thought the Duce could be reasoned with, must be reasoned with, before he embraced Hitler as his strongest ally. Mussolini was a dictator, but Antonio believed, only a dictator could have restored order in Italy during the strike-ridden 1920s.

Blackshirts and black armbands. I’ll wear the latter, a day of mourning for the election of Donald J Trump and the belief that he can make America great again. I’m in mourning for the world I knew.

 

Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (2009) The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone.

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A good week for me. I’ve moved up the alphabet from arsehole to author. There was brouhaha over the other side of the Atlantic over plagiarism. You may not have noticed, but I’m attuned to these social markers. Donald Trump’s second or third wife (who is doing the counting and who really cares) in a speech supporting her husband’s suitability to lead not just the Republican party, but the American nation as President, began her speech with something familiar and along the lines of: I was brought up believing if I worked hard and done the right things I would be rewarded. Now here’s a quiz question for you, who was the female Trumpeter accused of copying i) Laura Ingalls Wilder, of Little House on the Prairie fame. ii) Michelle Obama, of the big White House fame, or iii) any number of rich plutocrats who all come out with the same line of sophistry and smug self-justification? Imagine a world in which one of our leading citizens stood up and proclaimed: I worked hard at being a virgin and the audience stood up and gave her (or indeed him, in these transgender times) a standing ovation and shouted, well done, Mary! The problem with The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone isn’t that it doesn’t prove the case, that equality really is better, for rich and for poor, but paradoxically, only those that already believe that is the case would pick up this book and read it. You can be very sure that if President in waiting Donald Trump, did for a moment realize that there was such things as books, this wouldn’t be on his reading list and none of his scriptwriters or sycophants would think to nudge it in his or his wife’s direction.

Thomas Hobbes’ health-check spreadsheet can be applied here. Nasty, brutish and short and oh, yeh, fat and possibly pregnant too. Sounds like a school lesson, which it is. How to read a graph lies within the first few pages. Simple. The poor people live down there and the rich people live up there, separated by white space. There is much less of them and much more of us. But they make so much noise you wouldn’t think so. They live longer and have much better quality of lives and they start to believe their own lies. This book is a riposte to that. We have a choice typically from a menu that read: education or more prisons? Black lives don’t matter. Neither do white, working class. Neither do the poor, generally. We Brits are following the American model and building more of the latter. Recycling poverty and deprivation and the same old gang profiting from the poor.  David Cameron, we are all in this together, the sick man of Brexit Britain.

Marie Antoinette’s cry of let them eat cake finds a peculiar but familiar resonance and startled tone in Cameron’s letter to a Ian Hudspeth a Cambridge and Conservative councillor and politician advising him not to shut day-care centres for the elderly and to find other local-authority services to cut elsewhere. We do indeed live in different worlds that never meet. The sting in the tail is that in more unequal societies, not only do the poor not live longer, but neither do the rich. Their health and quality of life also suffers with a particular spike in the increase in mental illness, which the rich are not immune from. One of the last bastions of the Health Service where the rich and poor meet is in Mental Health services. Try it. Go along to your local clinic, listen to the different accents and laugh yourself stupid trying to book a hospital bed.

There is also the background hum of an apocalyptic tone to The Spirit Level. 30th June, 1916, one and a half million shells had been lobbed into a patch of ground near the river Somme. British soldiers were told not to hurry. A simple mopping up operation. 24th August 2016, the four horseman of the apocalypse are on their horses and waiting to visit. Read the small print of global warming. No water. No food. Tens, possibly hundreds, of millions of refugees on the march. This book was published in 2009. How we deal with the problem of making a fairer society and a fairer world, doesn’t just affect the rich or just the poor, we really are all in it together. But we can pay the price now, or pay it later. With bitter add ons. And it’s going to be as pretty as that stroll along the river Somme, one-hundred years ago. Wilkinson and Pickett don’t offer a blueprint, but they do point us in the right direction. All yea that enter here are doomed. Ignore it at your peril. You really can’t have your cake, no matter how rich, and eat it.