I was once informed by someone that despite Donald Trump coming to power on a political platform of open discrimination, bigotry and fallacious appeals, I should hold myself to more optimism since eventually, or at least given enough time, people do learn from mistakes and will be able to see through Trump for who he is. A necessary lesson, I was told. But that view borders on naive optimism. Given the current proliferation of technology, it’s not just too tempting to be distracted by petty gossip, fake news and casual entertainment, it’s also increasingly easier to control the masses without them being aware of it, and worse, also easier to develop destructive weapons for the purposes of a bargaining chip.
Before the 20th century, many large scale inquisitions broke out on the command of churches calling for the purging of ‘heretics’ and a necessity to advance the faith. To say that many died horrible and gruesome deaths is to say nothing of the abject stupidity in which they gave their lives for a blind and unthinking cause, with most combatants staunchly believing their actions would seek favour with their respective Gods. Thankfully, this conflict was through sword, spear and words. Devastating and disheartening as it was, one could still argue that we could recover from such a catastrophe. And we did.
But now we have made so much technological progress that absolute annihilation can now be comfortably contained within an innocuous looking warhead. Just like how computers of the past used to take up more space than a soccer field and needed manpower to resolve the most modest of mathematical problems, we now have a smart device that does all of that and more, and it’s barely larger than our pencil case. Administering death now is more distinguished, easier and colourful. And when we fire weaponised viruses, launch nuclear warheads and drop cluster bombs, this planet we are on, will no longer be able to bear the weight of human stupidity.
And so acquisition of such powerful munitions is only a question of time, and a measurement of sanity of those who are poised to use them. Soon when North Korea speaks, the world must listen. But already, we have nine countries with active nuclear weapons, and any value above zero already poses a serious risk. People will kill, murder and destroy for the sake of ideologies. And it is people like Trump (and also others like Rodrigo Duterte) who seeks fresh conflicts, believe in self-superiority and consider themselves beyond reproach, that this world’s lifespan is perilously always on the edge. But it’s also even more important (and terrifying) to remember how they got there: by people who democratically voted.
Already in his first week of office, Trump is making good on his promises of extreme vetting. Yet, the list of countries he is imposing vetting and limitations on doesn’t include Saudi Arabia, the country that funds terrorism and commits so many human rights atrocities in the name of Islam. Moral goodness then, according to Trump, is measured by trade money and oil, of which Saudi Arabia happily supplies. And worse, Trump specifically provides exceptions to Christians. This nonsensical racial and religious profiling destroys what’s left of America’s reputation, and has so far angered Pakistan (a country with nuclear weapons) to also ban the entry of all Americans.
And Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has called the US mainstream media as the ‘opposition party’ for reporting the truth on the much lower turnouts for Trump’s inauguration. This comes at a point after the controversial government silencing of many environmental agencies over their protests against Trump’s denial of climate change and the key proposals he put forward to decimate the environment. And over and over, when presented with the truth, Trump’s representatives have insisted they have ‘alternative’ facts – a deeply chilling reminder of Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984. When facts and numbers can be dismissed, and when the media is expected to play ball, we are not too far from the dystopian autocracy Orwell tried so hard to warn us about.
And of course, of all his extremist appointments, his pick of Betty DeVos is utterly baffling. (or not. She ‘donated’ ten million dollars to his campaign) A fundamentalist Christian who denies Science, who never went to public schools, never taught and never once implemented a single policy, is now Trump’s pick for Education secretary. That’s like asking the crown prince of Saudi Arabia to be the head of religious freedom. If appointed, the amount of collateral widespread damage will not just endure for four years but for generations after. And of course, there’s the commencement of building a wall to keep Mexican immigrants out even though everything in history has indicated this only deepens rifts.
It’s easy to say all these mistakes can be corrected at the end of Trump’s 4 years (assuming he doesn’t get elected again). But by fracturing relationships, taunting or discriminating, it sets the world stage on a sheet of fragile ice. It deepens hatred, invites suspicion and promotes tribal behaviour in a way that already defines the majority of the people who voted for him. And we simply cannot survive a modern war. And for those who think only America has problems, a number of countries (with China at the forefront) are already quickly moving towards something akin to the political system in Orwell’s 1984 that saw a political party exerting absolute control over what you know, think and see. Just as technology liberates, so too does it enslave.
And so, it may well be that we are already beyond the point of recovery. And that’s putting it optimistically.
So, have you thought about (HYTA) mistakes we cannot recover from?