Category Archives: Politics

Dumb as a Rock

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Having lost the centrality and privilege of childhood and now struggling with their own insecurities there is a moment some teens decide, and announce to me, that ALL their peers are stupid, dumb as rocks, and lying. Usually for teens trapped in this moment of narcissistic injury they make one exception. For boys it may be an online friend supporting his complaints in a gaming forum, for girls it is a best friend who goes to a different school.

Usually they grow past this period of developmental disappointment: A combination of time, some success at something, some judicious counselling, the love of a parent, finding a boyfriend or girlfriend, and sometimes taking the right medication for excess anxiety.

The analogy with Donald J. Trump is imperfect. For the teenagers their “dumb as rocks” peers comprise a classroom of 30 or a school of 1000. It is the limit of their experience at this age. New acceptable friends are hard to find.

But Donald, for every friend, associate and peer he decides is “dumb as a rock” there are two new friends waiting in the wings for a role in the play, and a chance to be best of buddies.

But the language he uses is the same:the playground accusations, the remarkable hyperbole, the name calling, the self reference, the projections, and the underlying insecurities.

I suspect the only reason Donald’s tweets sometimes sound more sophisticated than a 15 year old complaining to me is that he is quoting some words and numbers from Fox & Friends, as in “the 245 times James Comey told the investigators he didn’t know.”.

As this drama unfolds over the next few months I hope the adults in the room remember we are dealing with a very narcissistic 14 year old with the moral compass of a peanut.

Perhaps we can resurrect Donald’s parents and have Mueller and Congress hand the whole thing off to family court.

 

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A Cornered Narcissist is not a Pretty Sight

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Here is what to expect:

Increasing displays of petulance, irrational accusations, self-pity, rage, and depression, while he continues to seek out adoring crowds and fawning world leaders wherever he can find them.

This depression will take the form of blunt affect, self-imposed isolation, and paranoia.

I was struck by Trump’s demeanour right after the midterms. The news channels referred to it as upbeat, positive. His words (the actual words) started out upbeat, declaring the midterms a Republican “victory”, calling it “great”, before taking pot shots at all his favourite enemies and hinting at a democratic/deep state conspiracy against him, but his affect throughout this was flat, his pronunciation dull, his face blunted. even when using the words “great” and “victory” – at least until his petulant rage at Jim Acosta.

With the democrats now having the majority in the House, the republicans weakened in many State legislatures, the firing of Jeff Sessions, we are now into the endgame.

I don’t profess to feel any certainty how this will unfold. The possibilities include everything from impeachment to endless investigations to a thin gruel of feigned bipartisanship to more unrest, polarization, and violence.

But Donald Trump’s responses are predictable, and highly visible in his five tweets today attacking the press and the Mueller Investigation with even more recklessness and less attention to reality than we have seen before.

There was a time when a mad king could be isolated and the kingdom protected from his madness. Unfortunately we now have twitter and more than a few sycophants surrounding this president. And many more commentators still trying to shine a kind light on his outrageous words and notions.

Perhaps the world’s frightening march back to 1913 with the rise of nationalism, the erection of fences, the dissolution of agreements, and the rebirth of oligarchs will proceed without Trump. Or, or, or America might return to an improved version of itself as the beacon of successful liberal democracy, perhaps even with universal health care, gun control, less racism and a major role to play addressing climate change. I hope they try. Whatever poison flows below the 49th parallel tends to seep into Canada.

So, my American friends, it is now time for damage control and careful planning. If only you could promise him a statue bigger than Lincoln’s and the rating of “best president ever” in the history books in return for his retirement to Mar-a-Lago, quietly and permanently.

To US Citizens – Tuesday is Your Last Chance

By Dr David Laing Dawson

There must have been a moment, a day, sometime between 1927 and 1939 when it became too late to alter the course of world affairs as one Adolf Hitler rose to power and brought about the destruction of Europe.

The Austrian National Socialist party won only 779 votes in all of Austria in the general election of 1927. But their membership doubled each year after that and by the early 30’s one of their slogans was, “500,000 unemployed – 400,000 Jews – Simple way out; vote National Socialist”.

Historians can trace the seeds of WWII to WWI, but still there must have been a day when it was too late to stop WWII and the holocaust. Perhaps that day was the last opportunity to not vote for the National Socialists. Should not the slogan in the preceding paragraph been enough of a warning? Is not the code in “Simple way out” obvious? Or the juxtaposition of 500,000 unemployed to 400,000 Jews?

Apparently not.

I am writing this because I fear this Tuesday, the 6th of November, 2018, is the last day Americans can go to the polls and change the course of history.

I listened to some Trump supporters last night and I find they are just as deaf to the implications of the words of Donald Trump as the citizens of Europe were to that slogan:

“500,000 unemployed – 400,000 Jews – Simple way out; vote National Socialist”.

“I tell the truth when I can,” says Trump, without a flicker of irony. “Consider rocks as rifles if migrants throw them”. “…very bad thugs and gang members and middle ‘easterns’..”, “rapists and murderers..”, “Ìnvaders”.

Trump uses simpler code than the Nazi’s of the early 30’s. It should be easy to decipher, and then to grasp the full implications, and then to recoil from them.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018 may be that last day, my American friends, when you can stop this malignant rush to tribal warfare and the destruction of democracy.

Vote.
Continue reading To US Citizens – Tuesday is Your Last Chance

Trump Trashes the Veneer of Civilization.

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Just as we humans always overestimate our memories and find ourselves regretting we didn’t commit to paper or snapshot yesterday or last week, we also overestimate the extent to which our actions are guided by thoughtful consideration and choice.

We are easily influenced, especially if the influence is playing to our rat brain, to centuries of old survival coding.

The crowd of ordinary people chant in unison, “Lock her up. Lock her up.” It is, of course, entirely irrational, a bit nasty, and quite contrary to all due processes of judgment and punishment that have developed within western civilization over the past 100 years. I scan the part of the crowd shown on my monitor and I can’t find one person who has chosen not to chant.

But then we already know this about humans within crowds and mobs and humans under the influence of a charismatic authority, even when that authority is self-proclaimed. It is a small percent that can resist at that moment, that can buck the trend, be contrary, who can ask themselves, “Is this right?”

We know this from history. We know this from the Nuremberg Trials, from human behaviour in times of armed conflict and occupation. And we know this from some simple experiments in social psychology.

And we also know that among us are a few who respond eagerly to license and sanction, the go ahead to unleash the beast within, to act on a simmering hatred. Again we know this from history and contemporary observation.

Though the assumption of free will and personal responsibility is a cornerstone of human society, it does not negate the reality of what is written above.

We know these things about human behaviour. All our leaders should know these things.

So, yes, when Donald Trump’s crowds chant “Lock her up.” and “CNN sucks.” and when he tells his people they should fear the caravan of “invaders”, and when he fails to condemn the Alt-right extremists or other tyrants, he is culpable.

The Culpability of a President

By Dr David Laing Dawson

There are always men around, men from age 18 to 70, who are capable of committing hate crimes. These are boys and men who always blame others for their failures, infirmities, losses, inadequacies, and perceived slights. They harbour resentments. Their thinking is delusional or just this side of delusional. They may fantasize revenge, the settling of scores, the righting of wrongs. This particular disorder of personality will usually preclude successful intimate relationships, long term employment and even good friends – the very antidotes to distorted and paranoid thinking.

Isolated it festers, grows and deepens. “They are to blame.”

But usually such men don’t act on their convictions, their fantasies. At least they don’t act on them without some kind of encouragement, support, and sanction.

Unfortunately such encouragement is now readily available on internet sites. This was probably the source of encouragement that set the man off to driving his van into pedestrians (women) on Yonge street.

But for the man who sent pipe bombs in the mail last week, his move from anger, conspiracy theory and threats to action, the encouragement undoubtedly came from the President of the United States. In fact the word “sanction” fits in this case because the encouragement came from authority.

The call has been to “tone down the rhetoric”. That is too weak. Men and women in power need to know their words can foster peace and cooperation or they can incite violence. There are always some men who are waiting for just such encouragement, just such permission.

Donald Trump is not personally and specifically responsible for those pipe bombs, but he is culpable.

He needn’t “tone down the rhetoric”, he needs to “stop inciting violence”.

As I was writing this another delusional man committed multiple murders in a synagogue. His encouragement to act on his antisemitic delusion seems to have come from a social media site called Gab and alt-right conspiracy theorists, but the caravan of “invaders” moving through Mexico may have been the final trigger, and we all know how much Trump has hyped that fear, and, for that matter, threatened to send in a platoon of men with guns. “Screw the optics,” wrote this killer, “I’m going in.”

Trump’s remedy for this was more guns, armed security within houses of worship, before he was distracted by a baseball game and tweeting out a criticism of the manager for pulling the successful pitcher in the last innings of the game.

Nero came to mind.

 

Fear and Loathing from Washington

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Some years ago driving from New Orleans to Ontario I was cruising through the bucolic landscape of Kentucky when a talk radio show asked callers about guns. The first caller suggested buying many guns before the government undermined the second amendment. The second caller disagreed. It was ammunition they needed to buy before the government controlled the amount one could purchase. That’s what they would control, he asserted, not guns. And he was ready with his multiple guns and his great store of ammunition. He would be armed and ready on his roof top when those “terr’rists come over the hills.”

It wasn’t the American obsession with guns that struck me so much as the fear and insecurity. I tried to imagine a full company of Islamic terrorists crawling through the blue grass and over the rolling hills of Kentucky. Fear, insecurity, and a total lack of perspective.

More recently I watched some white suburban American women being interviewed. I think three were leaning toward the democrats in this coming midterm, while at least one was a Trump supporter. This was shortly after his “Horseface” comment. When asked why she supported Trump and by extension the Republicans, this woman’s answer was simple and heart felt: “He has kept us safe.” She didn’t say safe from what. Islamic terrorists, hordes of illegal immigrants, North Korean missiles, socialism?

Though I have compared Donald Trump’s brain to that of the less-than-average 14 year-old, there is some evil genius in this mix. Fear, insecurity, and a lack of perspective, perspectives of time, history, impact, and size. These are the characteristics of a population ready to give up on democracy and welcome a tyrant, and Donald Trump is feeding these insecurities on a Paleo diet.

A caravan of Hondurans approaches from the south, and Trump hypes them into a plague of biblical proportions and threatens to send troops to close the border. If you stand in the middle of them, he says, and look around you will see “Middle Easterns” and criminals. Asked for proof of this he boldly says, “There is no proof of anything.” – an ironic admission that he can say and proclaim whatever comes to his mind.

And then he says he is withdrawing from the nuclear arms control deal with Russia.

Now he is scaring me.

So the democrats need to develop some effective counter punching, rather than the platitudes I’ve been hearing. Here are a few:

“Only a horse’s ass would call a woman a horseface.”

“A few hundred or even a few thousand women, children and men from Honduras are not a threat to the American Way of Life. But putting troops on the border and children in cages is.”

“For God’s sake, any control over nuclear proliferation is better than none.”

”Stop dismantling the international agreements that have kept the world from total destruction since 1945.”

“Your anxieties are misplaced. It is not a few Hondurans that will destroy the US of A but climate change, income inequality, racism, isolationism, criminalization of the poor and mentally ill, and unwarranted trust in the Plutocracy of Donald Trump.”

See David Laing Dawson’s latest play on the moral dilemma of resistence

 

Interesting Times

By Dr David Laing Dawson

“May you live in interesting times.” is an old Chinese curse that places an interesting twist on the word interesting.

And these be they I think. And not just because the world’s most powerful nation has the world’s dumbest president, not because the digital revolution allows me to write this and send it to your phones, tablets and computers, and not because a space station orbits up above us, and not because we now understand there is really no “up” within our space time continuum and expanding universe.

But because the generations alive today can be consciously aware of both the beginning and end of our existence. And by beginning I mean the enlightenment, the industrial revolution, and the birth of science, public health and medicine, and by “end” I mean the ravages of global warming and nuclear conflagration.

My generation had grandparents who moved from horse drawn buggies to motor cars, and they had grandparents of their own who left the farms and migrated to the cities for jobs in the new factories.

Up until then the human population was rather stable, despite pestilence, tribal and religious wars, famine and hardship. For thousands of years and thousands of migrations the ecosystem sustained, and life went on. Short and brutal though it was for most. And then suddenly (a mere blink in the life of our galaxy) we find we have 7 billion people on earth, insufficient forests to absorb the carbon we emit, all 7 billion gasping for breath on a wee polluted globe with a rising temperature.

I now have grandchildren who will experience the true disasters of global warming and over population, and they may have children and grandchildren who will witness the end of times.

From start to finish a mere 10 generations or so. And we, I think, live within that unique middle space of being able to imagine, experience, hear about and read about the beginning, and being able to see and imagine the inexorable movement toward the end. Interesting times indeed.

Unless we somehow control population growth, ease it back to a sustainable 4 or 5 billion, find a way of reducing and absorbing carbon, and sweep Donald Trump into the dustbin of history.

But, speaking of Donald, I must check out those Cohen tapes about the payoffs to Stormy and that other playmate.

Conrad Black and Donald Trump

By David Laing Dawson

I made the mistake of reading an article by Conrad Black. I usually avoid reading Lord Black of Crossharbour (“on leave”) for I find his over-use of penultimate, supercilious, pretentious, swank, grandiloquent, Miltonian, show-offy adjectives very annoying.

But I did read his paean to Donald Trump, and then went for a bicycle ride to clear my head. But what should one expect from a man who gave up his Canadian citizenship for a Peerage in the UK, and once flew across the Atlantic to attend a costume party dressed as Cardinal Richelieu?

He refers to all immigrants entering the US through the border with Mexico as illiterate peasants and he thinks Donald Trump is the leader America needs. He does find Trump “grating” and that he takes “liberties with the truth”, but he thinks that Trump can make America Great Again, and by that I think he is referring to a degree of respect we all must show for the man holding the true weapons of mass destruction in his hand. And by “respect” I think he means fear. Donald does seem to be on track for making America a country we soon will all fear.

Of course, Conrad Black, as a man barred from entering the United States, may simply be, like so many others, currying favour with the one man who could and might pardon him.

And then I read another by Lord Black along the same lines but more of a dissection of the geopolitical game afoot. And I was reminded of an experience from 1964. Bear with me for a moment.

Our first year medical school class went on a weekend retreat with faculty. This entailed a 90 minute bus ride to a resort north of Vancouver. By chance I sat next to our Professor of Physiology. The Vietnam war raged and was about to expand. My companion on that trip had fled McCarthy era USA rather than testify against his colleagues, who might or might not have attended a communist party meeting. So we talked Vietnam.

I was 24 at the time, but worldly and cynical. I argued geopolitics along the lines that it was better for the two major superpowers, the two competing ideologies, to be squaring off in the jungles of Vietnam rather than in the skies over Moscow and New York. He disagreed. It was simpler than that for my professor, who must have been in his 40’s or 50’s at the time. For him it was simply immoral. It was immoral for Americans to take their guns, their napalm, their warships and their helicopters to Vietnam and kill people. It was simply wrong.

By the end of that trip I had concluded that if he could remain idealistic in his 50’s, surely cynicism in my 20’s was, at least, premature. It wasn’t long after that I found myself in a placard carrying crowd in front of the American Consulate chanting: “Hey, Hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”

But why I was reminded of this was because Conrad Black was writing with his usual elegance and erudition about the geopolitics of recent years, the new balance of power, the symbolic chess game played by nation states, and prognosticating about the geopolitics of the future. And it is this examination of geopolitics that I can hear from other politicians, commentators, advisors, other writers. And it reminds me of my self, age 24, arguing, albeit more naively, about these world events and shifts and movements and power struggles as if they are being played on large chessboards by giants, with the pawns and rooks representing a few million to a billion people. And talking about it and playing the game as if they experience, think about, Joseph Stalin’s famous observation as advice, rather than the cynical observation of a sociopath. “One man’s death is a tragedy; the death of millions is a statistic”.

My medical school professor could see beyond the geopolitics and the million death statistic to the terrified little girl fleeing the sticky horror of napalm.

The Bannons, Boltons, Millers, Trumps and Conrad Blacks of this world do not, cannot.

I do not want them to have any influence over myself or the lives of my children and grandchildren. We need to stop listening to them and focus instead on the little girl fleeing the napalm and the kid from Honduras locked in an American cage.

Trump, Dr Ford, and A Warning to Americans

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I wrote a blog before the 2016 election of Donald Trump titled “the mental and emotional age of Donald Trump”. I looked at a range of his behaviours and his speech patterns and considered the age at which such a behaviour would be typical for a boy or man, though not exemplary, not necessarily good, maybe even requiring some parental admonition, just typical. I arrived at an average of 14. Though some Trump statements required a pre-teen brain and some rose at least to 18 year-old jock talk.

A comment someone left on that blog was that I was being generous; it would have to be a particularly entitled and narcissistic 14 year-old.

More recently I listened to Trump mock the testimony of Dr. Ford and then go on about the threat the #MeToo movement poses for fine young men. He took on the voice of a boy talking to his mother about all the hard work he’s done, about being offered a great job, but all this is over because some woman he’s never even met is accusing him of things he’s never done. How terrible this is for men and boys.

I might run across a small group of 14 year old boys with one of them going on in this vein, and two might be laughing, though more at the outrageous display of disregard for propriety than the content itself; another two would be cringing, but unable to break the code of teenage boys to never be a “pussy”.

So the comment was fair. Only a nasty, narcissistic, and probably guilty 14 year-old could talk the way Trump so often talks.

Donald may be but a symptom of some other struggle in your country, my American friends, and I know you have some wide divides that need major bridgework, but he is doing damage to your country, more and more damage each day he has a voice.

They were laughing at him at the U.N. Much of the world is appalled by him and all he represents. He throws oil on your fires; he cozies up to nasty dictators; he is stripping the USA of any moral high ground it ever might have had; he is creating fizzures in your country it may take decades to repair. He has reduced political discourse to a schoolyard brawl and international relations to flea market bartering.

He represents you, my friends, and how we see him we will begin to view you. We don’t care how you see us, you may say, we are better than that. But there is a bit of psychology here you might not like. For gradually, whatever traits we assign to you, you will absorb, you will become.

This midterm you can show the world you are not all Trumpets; you can clip his wings and put him in a tail spin. Please do so.

Reflections from Vienna Monuments to Statues to Sir John A and Residential Schools

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I have just visited memorials commemorating the successful defense of Vienna in 1638. The Turks were at the city gate and undermining the wall. They were just a few days away from plundering the city when the cavalry arrived, contingents from Poland, Cossacks from the Ukraine among many others, warriors from the Christian nations assembled by the emperor of Poland.

And it reminded me that all the tribes of humans have been conquering, pillaging and plundering each other for thousands of years. And that includes the tribes of the First Nations, the Ojibway, the Mohawk, the Sioux and all the others. And conquering meant, beside pillaging and plundering, killing or enslaving the men and boys and raping and/or assuming ownership of the girls and women.

It had been the way of mankind for centuries, and, here and there it seems, it still is.

During John A. McDonald’s lifetime the Americans to the south were still sending out the cavalry to kill as many Indians as they could. (the official policy was “removal” but that usually meant massacre)

In Canada the conquering had taken place by the British and French, with some killing and plundering but also with a number of treaties. Now what to do with the conquered, the many scattered tribes, the people we now refer to as First Nations?

If history were to guide it would tell us the conquering should continue, killing and enslavement of the males, the rape and enslavement of the females.

But John A. and others in the newly formed Canada decided on a different plan. They would round up all the Indian children and send them to boarding schools while leaving the adults to hunt and gather, fish and farm, on land set aside for them. The plan may have been to “take the Indian out of the child” along with learning English or French and a bit of arithmetic, and it proved to be not so great an idea, especially letting the church run the program, but all in all, considering historic precedent, including the way a conquering aboriginal tribe treated a conquered aboriginal tribe, was not this idea really a quantum leap forward? I mean compared to all we know of the ways of human tribes throughout history?

I am not suggesting we raise new statues of John A. McDonald, but those we have deserve to remain. We now view residential schools as a destructive force, destructive to family and culture, but for John McDonald, it was not just a reasonable decision for the time, but a big step forward.