I have long been anxious about this US election; the dark dread of another Trump term. For three days, I immersed myself in the high drama of the contest – fascinated by the national debate and by the workings of decentralised US democracy. As I write (Thursday), there are legal challenges pending, but Trump looks done-for; a huge sigh of relief for western liberal values. What seems disproportionate, is how such a dodgy moral character got close enough to disrupt the institutions of our peace and stability; how a man with an obvious personality disorder got access to the nuclear trigger. I too easily voice my contempt for Trump’s values; I could more usefully try to understand why he has such a following – it’s not all racism and misogyny.
The choice of Brexit in the UK and Trump in the US (both 2016) were startling indications of frustration and anger in our populations; people feeling excluded from a social order, so blatantly ‘rigged’ in favour of the already fortunate. This ‘alienation’, from which populism derives, has not gone away.
There is growing realisation that the core dynamic of capitalism can never be the basis of a just society – but, as yet, little realisation of any credible alternative: with global warming, this has become the main challenge of our times. The ‘new normal’ we create, needs to assert the primacy of the ‘common good’ in human affairs. Extreme inequality brings anger – opens our public life to desperados like Trump and Johnson.
Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post.
The late Sean Connery, to film Goldfinger in 1964, received intensive golf lessons; these gave him a good swing and the golf bug. By chance, in 1965 – when I was 25 and he was 35 – we played some golf together in East Lothian. After Bond, in the 1970s/80s, during Connery’s Marbella years, we occasionally shared the same clubhouse at the Aloha Golf Club; the evolution of an unpolished Edinburgh lad into this international celebrity was remarkable; seemingly totally comfortable in his public persona. I got the exact opposite feeling watching Boris Johnson this week announcing lockdown 2; that here is a man miserably in the wrong job. John Crace in the Guardian doesn’t mince his words.
I’m a fan of ‘public philosopher’ Michael Sandel (What Money Can’t Buy) – reading his latest book, ‘The Tyranny of Merit’. It exposes the cruelty at the heart of some of our most beloved myths about success; astute insight into the popular resentment of our times. Video of Sandel lecturing on this theme.
If you’re a Bruce Springsteen fan, you’ll enjoy this article by David Brooks in The Atlantic – a discussion around what’s being called Springsteen’s happiest album in decades. I particularly enjoyed the wise reflections on what it means to grow old successfully – coming to understand the limits of life, without giving up on its possibilities.
Ever since the late Margo MacDonald’s memorable campaign in 2013 – I’ve supported the offering of assisted dying to terminally ill individuals. The recent New Zealand Referendum (65%:35%) in favour, may re-open discussion in Scotland and this Conversation piece helped me understand some nuances of the intended legislation.
During the lockdown, when bookshops were closed, I succumbed to my first experience of Amazon; it was so impressive, cost, speed, simplicity – that I resigned myself to the end of bookshops. But Monday’s Guardian carried this piece about Bookshop.org – a social conscious alternative to Amazon.
I’m a fan of Norman MacCaig’s poems: the clear speech, the sharp eye, the wry wit. This is called ‘In a Snug Room’.
“He sips from his glass, thinking complacently of the events of the day: a flattering reference to him in the morning papers, lunch with his cronies, a profitable deal signed on the dotted line, a donation sent to his favourite charity. And he smiles, thinking of the taxi coming with his true love in it. Everything’s fine. And Nemesis slips two bullets into her gun in case she misses with the first one.”