Category Archives: International Politics

The Tiff with Saudi Arabia

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Usually in our relations with nation states that have poor human rights records, Canada officially protests in polite fashion, the offending state responds in some grumbling way, and life goes on. Strategic, political alliances, and economic forces trump the rights of minority religions, journalists, little girls and women. Fair enough. Canada is not in a position to do much more than raise the issue anyway, and continuing to be engaged may be the most productive thing we can do in most cases.

Those fifteen thousand Saudi students in Canada just might take some civilized values back to the Middle East. Or not.

But we now have an opportunity to go beyond that. The over-the-top school-yard reaction by the Saudis, complete with a jpeg showing an airliner heading for the CN Tower, cancelling the scholarships of those 15,000 students, cancelling all future business deals, and sending our ambassador home, actually allows us now to be a little more direct and specific, without worrying about geopolitics and economics.

Saudi Arabia is a slave state. The girls and women of Saudi Arabia have only marginally more rights and dignity than a “house nigga” in 1840’s Georgia. In fact, researching this it seems the only real difference may be the amount of leisure time and purchasing power afforded the Saudi women by the  oil wealth of many households.

So, Chrystia and Justin. Opportunity knocks. Make it clear what you think of the enslavement of women, the absence of free speech, the control of the press, and their medieval system of justice.

As far as I can see, we need no longer be constrained by the strategic alliance between the USA and Saudi Arabia. In fact, it is Donald Trump who has emboldened the dictators and potentates of this world. He will no doubt say something like, “There are good people on both sides”, or even favor the Saudis over Canada in this dispute.

While we watch the craziness south of our border unfold, we must remain independent and give clear voice to our liberal democratic principals.


Thoughts on the Making of a Suicide Bomber

By Dr David Laing Dawson

After the Manchester bombing I read some articles in which the authors despaired of ever understanding any suicide bomber, any killer of “innocent children”. (I don’t know why we need the modifier ‘innocent’ in front of the word ‘children’, other than to imply there might be some not-so-innocent children it would be all right to kill.)

I often write to understand, a way of thinking things through carefully and with a degree of logic, using what we all know about these events and what we know about human behaviour. The following is what I arrived at. I do not know if this helps in any way, but here it is:

What are the layers of the pyramid that lead to an act of terror, especially an act of suicide terror, whether the weapon be a truck, a gun, or a bomb?

A mind experiment reveals the foundation of the pyramid: Imagine a group of 18 year-old boys (make that 16 to 23 years old if you will) being taken by their teacher to a small museum filled with artifacts. Once there the teacher tells the boys they have two choices. They can choose an artifact and the culture surrounding that artifact, spend the entire day studying it, and write a five page essay about it in the evening to be handed in the next day – or – they can each take up one of these baseball bats and spend an hour smashing the artifacts and then go for a beer in the nearest pub.

If need be we can refine this experiment by removing one or two of the most successful young men (academic, social, sexual, vocational) and by having the teacher demonstrate use of the bat on one of the artifacts.

I am not betting on the survival of the artifacts.

There is a developmental phase in the lives of young men when most experience some anger. Most put at least one fist hole in the dry wall before this passes. They are now quite suddenly responsible for their own futures; they are faced with years of unrewarding industry; it is now up to them to plan and organize and work if they are to eat, sleep under a roof, own a car, win the mating contest. And they must do this while watching it, seemingly, come so easily to others.

And this is new to homo sapiens – this span of adolescence reaching into the mid twenties. Until these last few generations most 16 to 23 year old boys were quickly embedded into a life of work, survival, training, routine. Just this morning there was recognition of this in the local paper with a proposal that boys in care be supported until age 25.

In his immature and random use of language Donald Trump may have actually been partially accurate when he recently called the Manchester bombers “losers”. I think he meant it as a school yard epithet with the modifier “evil” added, but within that pyramid of angry young men mentioned above, some are successful, some are struggling, and some perceive themselves as unjustly losing in the academic, social, vocational, sexual competitions.

So on this second level of the pyramid we find angry young men who perceive themselves as losing, unjustly losing.

We have to assume family has an influence here, though it seems suicide bombers are the progeny of both extremist angry fathers, and of fathers who are moderate in their religious beliefs. But we also know that the two psychological states by which boys react to their fathers is by either (sometimes both) imitation or opposition. Family then provides a third level of influence, though not necessarily as direct promulgation of extremist views.

But these are boys looking for direction, seeking answers for their disappointments and rage. They are also seeking simple answers to reduce their existential anxiety. So they easily fall prey to mesmerizing leaders, gurus, exhortations to violence. This can be an Imam at the local mosque, or a Youtube video or an extremist or racist website. The general source of their distress and their failures is made clear to them. This is the fourth level, a powerful influence in the form of an older man, a guru, a man with explanations and answers. A man, or group, who can point this angry and failing young man to a cause for his dissatisfaction and disaffection.

But this must be combined with some social isolation, a retreat from social influences that would otherwise undermine or counter the influences of the newly acquired “teacher”. And most friends or acquaintances interviewed after a suicide attack report something like, “He was always a little quiet, but I haven’t seen him for the last five or six months. He stopped coming to our….” And some do report a change of behavior such as an angry confrontation at the Mosque before they stop coming or are banished.

So now we have a fifth level: withdrawal from alternative social forces.

There would be a division at this point in the development: Those who end up being called a “lone wolf” because they act alone, and those who become part of a network.

The former, the lone wolf, is truly suicidal, and probably suffers from, by now, a psychotic depression (depressed and delusional). This person would have been in trouble before, perhaps summarily discharged, fired, or known to mental health services and local police. His attack will be one of rage with suicidal intent. The creed of groups like ISIS or the white supremacists simply give this person a final excuse and a sheen of righteousness. His weapon will be whatever is available to him. His target may be personally symbolic to him: People enjoying and celebrating when he cannot. Women who have spurned him. Gays who enticed him. A corporation that fired him. An army that excluded him. The group that gives him that “sheen of righteousness” could be white supremacists, fascists, extreme Islam, anti-Semites, or even, today, talk radio and Donald Trump.

The latter, the suicide bomber who uses a more sophisticated weapon crafted by others in a network, is the dupe. He is the youngest, weakest, of the group. He has been gradually pressured and convinced to carry this out. Though he may be a believer in the creed, and though he may also believe in the rewards of martyrdom promised, he is really doing this to please, to not disappoint his cult leaders and be cast out. These leaders may include an older brother, an uncle, a father. Or they are strangers who have become his family. To retain his position with them, at least in his imagination, he must carry out the act. They are the ones with the political agenda and the level of sociopathy required to inure them to the consequences.

I am Distressed to Hear the War Drums

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I am distressed to hear the war drums. I am distressed listening to the talking heads, the panel of retired generals, pundits, and experts on CNN talk of war with North Korea. I am distressed by their matter-of-factness, by their strategic and political ponderings, all so devoid of horror.

How do we remain so inured to the real consequences of war?

My grandfather died in 1972. I had long thought he fought at Vimy, and on a visit there, to see the trenches and the monument, I wrote in the guest book, “I came to see where my grandfather fought.” In the trenches and the bomb craters one can smell the fear, sense the horror, see the threat of opposing trenches a stone’s throw away. At the monument, awe and pride intrude. My grandfather was here.

But it turns out he wasn’t.

Thanks to the wonders of the digital age I now have 93 adobe pages of my grandfather’s military record from the moment he enlisted until his discharge and the time of his death.

He enlisted in January of 1915 and joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force when it was still necessary for a married man to have his wife’s permission. His wife and my grandmother was Irene Alice who he left behind in Victoria with three children. A fourth would arrive, at least by my calculations, after the war.

On the enlistment form, just above a final declaration, is a curious question: “Do you understand the nature and terms of your engagement?” He answered “yes” and then completed the form with a signature much like my father’s and my own. He was 28 years old and five foot nine. He was assigned to the 30th battalion and sent overseas in the spring of 1915. From January 1915 until March 31, 1916 my grandmother received between 30 and 40 dollars per month.

He spent the summer training at Shorncliffe, on the Kentish coast of England, and then, in September, he was shipped to the front. The front being the trenches of France, and then Belgium and the second battle of Ypres.

Twice in France he was taken from the trenches to a field hospital suffering from influenza. He was promoted to Sergeant by late September 1915, and then to Sergeant Major. Upon discharge he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

On June 3, 1916, at the Battle of Mont Sorrel, within the second battle of Ypres, my grandfather rose from the trench at the call to charge. A bullet pierced his right bicep and shrapnel hit him in the right side of his face. He was evacuated to the Graylingwell War Hospital with “wounds to his right arm and scalp”.

In the documents I have the army is more detailed and thorough in its descriptions of the pay records than either combat or medical experiences, but I do have terse notes by doctors and digitized versions of the original x-rays.

My grandfather’s right arm healed quickly. The x-rays show a piece of shrapnel behind the right eye lodged in bone. They did not attempt to remove this. He is transferred to a convalescent hospital with his arm healed and almost fully functional but suffering from poor sleep (nightmares of his time in the trenches), headaches and dizzy spells. The dizzy spells cause him to black out and fall frequently. Specialists cannot find a physical cause to explain these latter symptoms and they diagnose the etiology as, in part, “nervous”.

By August of that year he is declared medically unfit to return to duty and then formally discharged from the army in January, 1917. The monthly pay to my grandmother ceases two months later.

So he did fight in the trenches; he was wounded, and he was furloughed to London as I knew, but he didn’t fight at Vimy as I had come to believe. And it is 30 to 40 years later that I formed my first memories of my grandfather and he never spoke of the war and I had no idea of the questions I might ask.

But now my medical curiosity has kicked in. Initially his symptoms might have been concussive, or post concussive. Next he certainly suffered from what they called “nerves” and would soon refer to as “shell shock” and now PTSD. He did suffer the living hell of the cold muddy trenches in France and Belgium through the winter of 1916. He watched men dying suddenly. He watched men dying slowly. He watched men throw themselves into battle to relieve their growing terror.

But it is also possible that he continued to report dizzy spells and he continued to fall down at the convalescent hospital because he did not want to go back to those trenches.

Perhaps he had come to know that in war there is no glory to be had.

Mini Quiz – Are you Prone to Populism?

By Dr David Laing Dawson

The men (I don’t think I can accurately say men and women) who came up with our Canadian Senate (the house of sober second thought) and the complex set of checks and balances of the American Republic knew we humans were, at least quite often, drunken, impulsive, short-sighted, and stupid. They knew we often react emotionally, that we throw logic to the wind, that we forget history. They knew that we, like mice, despite hearing the snap of a trap to our left or right,  still go for the cheese. We still buy the snake oil. We still go along with the mob and chant whatever the mob is chanting.

Below is a small test to prove this point. Please answer quickly according to that first impulse, the one Populist leaders count on.

1. A lane jumper on the three lane highway pulls in front of you, slams on his brakes causing you to do the same and spill your medium regular Tim Horton’s coffee in your lap.

He should be:

A. Taken out and shot

B. Bitch slapped

C. Have his driver’s license revoked forever

D. Given a small admonishing toot of your horn.

2. A man is convicted of killing a child.

He should be:

A. Taken out and shot

B. Castrated, put in a rat infested cell, and then taken out and shot.

C. Allowed to appeal on a technicality.

D. Sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 10 years.

3. For the fourth time this summer your neighbour has dumped his tree trimmings on your side of the fence.

He should be:

A. Taken out and shot

B. The recipient of three of your bags of garbage.

C. Cursed at under your breath.

D. Forgiven because, after all, the rather dirty Mulberry tree is yours.

4.  A young man has broken into your house, stolen your jewelry, smashed your crockery, and swilled your 20 year old Scotch. He should be:

A. Taken out and shot.

B. Sent back to Jamaica.

C. Offered a community recreation center.

D. Face due process like everyone else.

5. A salesman talks your aging mother into buying  a very expensive furnace she does not need.

He should be:

A. Taken out and shot

B. Tied in a gerry chair and left in the corner of a dementia ward.

C. Arrested for fraud

D. Be reported to the Chamber of Commerce and receive a letter from your lawyer.

6. Illegal immigrants

Should be:

A. Taken out and shot

B. Rounded up and dumped in some other country.

C. Put in detention cells for 2 years and then dumped in some other country.

D. Offered a specific monitored pathway to achieve citizenship within a reasonable time frame.

7. Hillary is just a little too smug and prissy in her boxy white pant suit.

She should be:

A. Taken out and shot.

B. Locked up for life

C: Given I.T. and fashion advice

D. Elected anyway because she is actually competent

8. Those uppity Germans and Snooty French are having too big a say in how we live in England.

They should be:

A. Taken out and shot.

B. Delivered divorce papers

C. Asked to accommodate our peculiarities a little more in the E.U. parliament.

D. Asked to remind us why we organized the common market and E.U. in the first place.

Trump’s grandiosity.

by Dr. David Laing Dawson

I have been watching too much CNN. I must control this new addiction. It is bad enough to find oneself compelled to watch a train wreck or a car accident, to have to slow down and gawk, but now I’m following the ambulances into the ER and waiting to hear the pronouncements of the doctors and nurses and next of kin.

Each evening several panels comprised of both political persuasions dissect the president’s tweets and statements, seeking substance, direction, and meaning, seeking precedent for his personal attacks, sometimes deftly skipping past his actual words to re-frame and reword the proclamation in question. They are often concerned about the political advantage or disadvantage his words might have. As George Orwell and Mark Twain and others have told us, when the outrageous lie becomes commonplace it loses its ability to outrage us. It becomes “strong opinion”. It may even become “alternative fact”.

But none of these panelists seem to pay attention to a part of Donald Trump’s speech that I think they should. Perhaps they need a linguist on one of their panels. Like a child
Trump calls the judge a “so-called judge”; like an envious teenager he revels in the low ratings of Arnold Schwartzenegger; he demonstrates every day he has no boundaries, personal, professional, or ethical.

But this is the kind of sentence I find most frightening:

“I comprehend very well, better than I think almost anybody.”

Without irony or a wink he begins to tell us that he comprehends better than anybody, that he is smarter than everybody else. Then as he is forming the words he catches a glimpse of how this will sound to others, and he squeezes in the phrase, “I think almost”.

He did the same when he said, “I am very smart.” He squeezed in the word “like” to soften the statement a tad, even if it ended up sounding adolescent.

I can analyze this as a grandiosity that is really an over-compensation for insecurity, but it is, nonetheless, grandiosity: A belief in his own powers, in this case his intellectual powers, that far exceeds reality.

As President Kirkman said last season: “There is nothing more dangerous than a pawn that thinks it’s a queen.”

It is this grandiosity that will bring down the house, or some day implode in rage.

Why We Need the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation More than Ever

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Hungary is swinging to the right, on the verge of fascism. Far right parties are gaining in much of Europe. Trump is the next president of the USA. The pendulum has been prodded in the direction of tribalism by a wave of migrants and, I would venture to guess, the Internet.

I wondered how it would appear in Canada. And it seems to have arrived in the form of Kellie Leitch with her proposed test for “Canadian Values”, and now her wish to dismantle the CBC.

The CBC. What timing. We have suddenly arrived in an age some are calling “post-truth”. False news can be disseminated as quickly and widely as real news. The New York Times is competing with a kid in Moldavia on his I Mac. And his news is always more interesting, more sensational. To compete with this kid, the National Enquirer, Fox and Breitbart, CNN had to give prodigious air time to Donald Trump and his surrogates.

Today, more than ever we need a news service that is not beholden to advertising, corporate interests, or ratings. We need a news service not afraid to bore us with details and background. We need a news service willing to fact check our politicians. All of them. Rigorously and fearlessly. We need a media service that will tell us all our stories. We need this news and discussion service watched by a substantial number of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

We have just been taught a lesson. We need to pay attention to it. Without rigorous and fearless fact checking, a politician can, by repetition and exaggeration, convince a large chunk of the public to believe the most outrageous fictions. And in this digital world, with targeted and automated advertising, a splashy story about Hillary having a secret love-child with Bruce Willis will earn more money than a story about her work with the Children’s Defense Fund.

Our only defense against this is a News service that does not depend on advertising or ratings. A news service that does not need to sensationalize, that does not need to give equal time to outrageous opinion. A news service that can broadcast a documentary about evolution without feeling the need to give equal time to creationists, a news service that actually checks facts before airing them. The CBC does this. They check stats and they interview experts after reporting the words coming from a politician’s mouth. They jump on every stated, implied, or suggested bit of sexism, racism, inanity and stupidity. They provide in depth and civilized discussion of serious matters. They also go to great lengths to be inclusive.

CBC stands between us and a Donald Trump, a Marie LePen, a Mussolini, a Boris Johnson. It is a true Fourth Estate.

Now I must admit I tire at times of the CBC being so precious and politically correct. And I tire of them making me feel guilty at least once per week, reminding me of the head tax I put on Chinese Immigrants, the time I rounded up Japanese Canadians, the quota I imposed on Jewish Immigrants, my refusal to accept them when they were fleeing Germany, my breaking of treaties with first nations people, the shoddy housing I provide for them, the terrible idea of forced residential schools, how little I am doing to help addicts, and children living in poverty, how I’m contributing to global warming, running a nasty prison system, not fixing the plumbing in subsidized housing, eating too much, drinking too much, and exercising too little……

Little Mosque on the Prairie was too precious for my taste but certainly provided better life lessons than Criminal Minds or Breaking Bad.

I will suffer the guilt CBC imposes on me. In fact, it may be good for the soul. It is certainly good to be reminded of our history, and to have a healthy Fourth Estate beholden only to truth and the welfare of all.

This is absolutely the wrong time to consider privatizing the CBC.

Donald Trump vs Lincoln, FDR, Eisenhower and JFK

By Dr David Laing Dawson

A depressing explanation for the existence of Donald Trump as a viable candidate for a position held by Lincoln, Eisenhower, F.D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy.

Disparate data supports this hypothesis:

  • I have some patients, teenagers, 20 somethings, who spend almost every waking hour in front of one or two or even three screens, absorbing Youtube Videos, Reality TV shows, and gaming. Some sleep at random times, and bathroom breaks and grabbing some food from the refrigerator are minimal, random, and treated as an interruption.
  • Some years ago mental health professionals were so influenced by film and television that “multiple personality disorder” migrated from being a theatrical device to a real syndrome.
  • One teenager I have seen told me she did not identify as specifically male or female. And then she went on to tell me that in fact she did not identify as human.

Two hundred years ago the average person lived within and experienced reality for 99% of his or her waking hours. Perhaps he or she listened to a storyteller once per week.

Books do transport us to imaginary places populated with imaginary people, but to make a book come alive, the writing must be clear and we must use our own imagination to visualize the pirate ship, the colony on Mars, the monster in the swamp. The boundaries between literary fiction and the reader’s reality remain reasonably intact at all times. At least after grade 6.

Perhaps our ancestors in the 18th and 19th century were transported to fictional experiences as often as once per week at a theater, and once per week at a church. But no more than that.

With radio in the 20th century this transportation increased, and the power of it is evident in the consequences of Orson Welles’ broadcast of War of the Worlds.

Still, absorption into a fictional universe occurred, at most, and for most, a few hours per week.

Then came television, and we couch potatoes expanded that to perhaps 20 hours per week.

And now new media, smart phones, tablets, internet, plus television and film, and a whole generation has grown up with their waking hours being divided evenly between a virtual reality (fiction and spectacle and gaming), and reality, and for some the balance has made a profound tilt toward fiction and virtual reality.

So I am wondering if Donald Trump owes his current success to a demographic that can no longer make, can no longer see clearly, the distinction between entertainment and reality, between spectacle and thought, between the absence of real consequences to bad ideas and decisions in virtual reality and the tragedies that bad decisions cause in the real world.

The proposed high wall between the US and Mexico may be a specific symptom of this confluence of reality and virtual reality. In a computer game such a wall can be built quickly and easily, the cost assigned to one’s opponents. It fulfills its purpose or not. It is breached or not. It can be torn down as easily as it was put up. Even if we go bankrupt and our warrior is killed, we simply push the reset button. That ain’t reality.

Donald Trump is a spectacle, a fiction, a celebrity. He is entertaining. He appeals to the petulant child in all of us. We don’t worry about the consequences of his leadership, his stupid statements, his endless lies, because this is just a TV show, a Youtube video, a game. He is a harmless Avatar, and a guilty pleasure. Vicariously we can be The Donald for a while, enjoying his billions, his jets, his mansions, his trophy wife, his freedom to say whatever comes to mind, his freedom from guilt, from anxiety, from empathy. We needn’t think about the real consequences of his candidacy because the season isn’t over yet. And it is just a game show after all.

Reflections on Donald Trump and Reality TV

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I apologize for writing again about Donald Trump, but what is happening in that country south of our border may be very important for all of us. Many pundits have been sharing their views, but when you are living at the time of a tipping point in human affairs it is very hard to see what is coming.

I previously commented on Trump’s off-the-cuff speech pattern being akin to that of a teenager with ADD. (my apologies to all bright articulate teenagers). Well, there are two possibilities: that is his natural speech pattern and it reflects his pattern of thought or… or he is faking it. Which means he is masterfully engaging his audience in this manner because he understands the brain of those raised on Talk Radio and Duck Dynasty. I don’t mean to make light of this. It is a much worse alternative to thinking he simply suffers from some ADD, both for what it says about him, and what it says about our Reality TV and Celebrity Culture.

I remember the moment Television changed democracy. Nixon vs Kennedy. Nixon did not look good on camera. At the time people speculated that FDR would not have been elected had every household owned a television. As we know either Nixon looked better on color television or his consultants taught him how to look better next time around.

Over fifty years have passed since the Nixon Kennedy debate, and since that time the makers of film, television, and other commercial interests have become much more sophisticated in the manipulation of the human mind/brain. Which boils down to tapping into our arousal systems, our reward systems, our primitive fears, anxieties, frustrations, anger, our primitive responses, our seeking of certainty and security. The digital revolution has given them amazing tools to do this. The very tools that can make information and wisdom available to all can be used to make us play video games for days on end, binge watch a cable series, and tune in for another episode of “Reality Television”. We get hooked, we say. Well, yes, that is the point. A bit of fun, then mystery, then anxiety, threat, struggle, fear (albeit vicariously) then resolution and reward, repeat. Our brains love this stuff.

(McLuhan’s famous dictum “the medium is the message” sounds rather quaint now.)

Donald Trump knows this. Or he is a phenomenon created by this “Reality” TV culture.

Perhaps he is a one-off, an accidental politician, a throw-back, the subject of many future dissertations subtitled, “How and why did this happen?”

Or he is a sign of the times, a man of these times, a man who understands the way entertainment can tap into the human brain and destroy the boundary between truth and fiction, the manner repetition creates reality, the manner in which simple phrases can instill anxiety, the manner in which bluster can convince, and our brains’ desire to repeat that anxiety, fear, struggle, resolution, reward cycle as often and as quickly as possible.

Like the despots who managed to corrupt nascent democracies in the past Trump stirs up primitive anxiety, fear and anger and then offers us fentanyl, the quick fix. And he does this with a mastery of the new media and an accidental or calculated understanding of the brains of the fans of Reality TV.

Well, for the sake of my grandchildren I hope this is a one-off, and less to do with the impact of absorbing reality TV, entertainment, and video games with faster and faster editing taking us through that anxiety/arousal/reward cycle over and over again for many hours each day – I hope it has less to do with that and more to do with the residual racism and sexism in the American culture. The latter can be improved over time. I don’t know what we do with the former.

Backlash, Change and Disruption

By Dr David Laing Dawson

How stupid can they be to vote to leave the EU? How stupid can they be to vote for Donald Trump?

These questions leap to mind but are mostly the product of bafflement, anger, and worry.

But perhaps we should take those two questions seriously and try to answer them. Because if we don’t understand these phenomena, we may find ourselves in big trouble.

Prior to the turn of the last century, as 2000 loomed, I wondered if there would be a backlash. That millennial year signified change and disruption, a world, yea a universe, that could no longer be understood using concepts and tools of the 20th century. It didn’t seem to happen at the turn of the millennium, but then we humans have a very narrow perspective. I think it is happening now, not all at once, but here and there, a growing backlash, a growing avoidance of the realities we face and the future that will unfold.

Historically it happened once before, thanks to the printing press. Suddenly knowledge was disseminated. Literacy grew. It was no longer locked away in the vaults of monks. The world was not flat after all. And the earth traveled around the sun, and even the sun was not the center of the universe. Humanism competed with religious dogma. Gallileo, Copernicus, Columbus, Da Vinci – they all had to be reckoned with. Maybe, just maybe, the Pope did not have a pipeline to God. Maybe parts of those old texts were simply wrong. Maybe disease and pestilence and weather were not acts of an angry God.

We did go through a renaissance and a reformation and then a scientific revolution, but we also floundered into a protracted reactionary period, a hundred plus years of religious wars, famine, pestilence, superstition and stupidity. The dramatic changes in the 1400’s did bring us literacy and art and science and a new awareness of the world as but a sphere in orbit around a star. But it also brought us the 15 and 16th century equivalents of Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, and Radical Islam.

It was the invention of the printing press about 1440 that triggered that first disruption, the spread of knowledge and literacy, and with this a limitation on the powers of Popes, Princes, and demagogues. But there was a backlash and it brought on a century of pain.

Today we live within an even greater disruption, several in fact:

  • Our medicines, our science, our agricultural advances, and our industrial revolution have rendered us capable of destroying our planet. Quickly with nuclear weapons or slowly with population, deforestation and pollution.
  • The digital revolution. Faster than the printing press, information of all possible kinds is disseminated, made available throughout the world, almost instantly. And this now includes images and videos. This time around even the semi-literate are included. It is much harder today to be complacent about one’s knowledge and understanding of ourselves and the world we live in. It is much harder today to be so sure of the rightness of our lives and our place in the universe.
  • Globalization. A product of both the digital revolution, the massive increase in population, and all our other technologies. We can no longer even pretend to be isolated and protected from whatever plague is visiting a far off land or a neighbor.
  • The Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence. The robots. We are in the process right now of creating things that are smarter than we are, can do most of our jobs, and might not obey Asimov’s first rule of robotics. Exciting and frightening times ahead.
  • Our awareness of the expanse, the complications, the weirdness of our universe is blossoming, is growing beyond our average human comprehension. Clearly our world was not created by a God in six days 4000 years ago. Would someone please explain string theory to me, and black holes, and anti-matter, and things being in two places at once; and what existed before the big bang, and does that question even make sense?

Hence the backlash. The fantasy that we can return to our whites-only pub, discuss football with the same accent, build by hand what we need, grow our potatoes and eat our pies, drink our ale in peace, and know that we are British, the truly civilized people.  The fantasy that we can rebuild a caliphate and control all around us, the women, the way we dress and eat, the way we think, regain the comfort of absolutes and certainties. The fantasy that we can retrieve small town America and go about our lives certain of our jobs, our future, our power, our exceptional place in the Universe.

It is all happening now. And to avoid a repeat of the 16th century (with global consequences this time), our leaders must understand the disruptive transition ahead of us, and the forces that would like to pull us back to an imagined time of peace, prosperity, simplicity and isolation.

We really have only two choices: Embrace and manage these disruptive changes, accept globalization, muddle through and save the planet, or let Donald and his ilk drag us into a very dark (and hot) age.

The Future of American Foreign Policy

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Donald J Trump @ realDonaldTrump

Hey Justin. You go girl. Elbow those Commies. I’ll cover your legal bills. I got your back.

Donald J Trump @realDonaldTrump

@JudgeGonzalesCuriel. Mexican. Hostile, hostile, a hater. Total disgrace, okay. They should look into him. This is real life folks. OK.

Donald J Trump @ realDonaldTrump

@Putin my man. Love those pecs and delts. But I got it big where it counts. Lemme tell ya. Okay.

Donald J Trump @ realDonaldTrump

@China. Yo, leader, keep your pathetic little planes away from our thunderbolts. I’ll make you a deal. I’m a great deal maker. You better believe it. Got a whole University available. Good Price.

Donald J Trump @ realDonaldTrump

Really Merkel, can’t you find anything classy in your closet. Come to New York and let me buy you some clothes. Not a bathing suit though, lol. Eww. Disgusting.

Donald J Trump @ realDonaldTrump

You see people. What’d I tell you. Another plane down. Pathetic.

#ISIS, Al queda, whatever. You can’t hide from me. Your days are numbered. I promise you. Okay.

Donald J Trump @ realDonaldTrump

@Israel@therealNetanyahu.  Hey, we’re behind you buddy. Send me the specs on your wall. You notice those Palestinians look like Mexicans. Eh. Huh. Huh?

Donald J Trump @ realDonaldTrump

@Vincente Fox. Funny accent man. You are a pathetic loser. I’m a winner. See next.

Donald J Trump @ realDonaldTrump

From@BARBfromKansas. You are wonderful. I want your baby.

Donald J Trump @ realDonaldTrump

#Muslim lovers. We’ve rounded up thousands. Who wants ‘em? Trade for some Coptic Christians. Egypt huh, C’mon. #the dealmaker. We’ll throw in some Mexicans.

Donald J Trump @ realDonaldTrump

I love women. I really do. I love them all over. Sorry, not now Melania. I’m working. See, she wants me. All women do. Even Megyn. Really. Okay. I’ve got it down there. I’m telling you.

Donald J Trump @realDonaldTrump

@Europe #bigwars. Hey, we saved your asses twice. Big time. Not gonna do it again. Not. Maybe you pay us for those first two. Or get your own nukes. Pathetic.

Donald J Trump @ realDonaldTrump

@Sadiq Khan. Why would I want to visit London? It’s old and dirty. Oh yes. I forgot. I own half of it. Sell me your Mosque. I’ll put up another Trump Tower. #thedealmaker

Donald J Trump @ realDonaldTrump

Huh, huh. @ISIS I told you I wouldn’t tell you when or how. Gone baby, gone. All glowy like with radioactive particles now. Pretty sight. Okay.

Donald J Trump @ realDonaldTrump

Sorry about all those Roman ruins. Nobody really cared about them. Besides. I got plans. How about the Palmyra Casino? Las Vegas. #money. People. People. America first.

Donald J Trump @ realDonaldTrump

@Tehran. What can you do? The wind is the wind. Could have evacuated. I told you. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Right. Am I right or am I right.

Donald J Trump @ realDonaldTrump

@Putin. #missiles. C’mon Vlad, you don’t really wanna do that, do you? All over a little desert real estate? I wouldn’t build a motel on any of it. Sand and stink. Oww. Really? You wanna see how big my missile is? Here’s the button. Gonna do it. Gonna do it.

Donald J Trump @ realDonaldTrump

@Kim Hey. The Donald here. You got a little place for me on the coast. Next to Rodman maybe? I’m worth billions.