Thu | Mar 22, 2018

Ronald Thwaites | Trump and the liberal enterprise

Published:Tuesday | October 11, 2016 | 12:00 AM

As jerky and sometimes sordid as Jamaican politics is, we don't compare for excitement with this year's burlesque of United States presidential politics.

For it is boiling down now to the issue of whether the most powerful nation on earth, in its fretful desire for change, will elect that third-grade bully named Donald Trump.

This is a choice of monumental importance to the world and certainly for Jamaica. The events of this campaign have opened not only a view of the troubled American spirit but the vulnerability of the liberal enterprise for all people.

We can see tendencies of our own polity in their narrative. People want change. The disparities of wealth and personal status anger both the young and the old, who feel left out. We grasp at promisers and personalities who seem to have dash and ruthlessness, a touch of Hitler, Duterte or Trump, who we hope will save us from things like taxation, crime, inequity and scamming.


Personalism dominates


The dominant pseudo-ideology is personalism - what I can get which pleases me soonest, quiets my neuroses first, offers me 'prassperty', even if at the cost of everyone else, a lurch back to a self-referential past - even if I really suspect that much of this is a hoax.

The liberal enterprise, prizing individual rights and choices, encouraging personal freedoms and, because we forget so easily, personal responsibilities, is endangered by its own laxness, its own abandonment of its Judaeo-Christian roots - the Golden Rule, the Beatitudes, the good Samaritan story, and even the cross itself.

So millions of us end up supporting harsh taxation of the poorest to curry-favour with those already endowed, whether on Wall Street or New Kingston. Many would applaud the killing of drug users and dealers in Manila, and support the abolition of INDECOM, or the mass abortion of inconvenient babies wherever.

Faithfulness and commitment - the foundation of family; order and mercy - the foundations of community - become terms of convenience to be used more often than practised. Ego and sectional interest trump the common good more often than not.

Of course, all of the above are generalisations for which heroic and frequent exceptions abound. But who can deny that the trend away from personal and social responsibility is strengthening in world culture?

Enter Donald Trump, who has excited some 40 per cent of the American electorate. Here is someone (see any lookalikes locally?) who feels women were made for entertainment and who revels in his experience that if you are rich and famous like him, no woman can resist.

Relate that, if you care, to the widespread conviction that if you want a girl in Jamaica, you have to spend money, and conversely, if you want a man, you have to be available for sex right now.

I think people are flocking to Trump, whatever he says or does, because he represents the antidote, the counterpoint to what they consider to have been the impudence of the electorate in electing a black man to occupy the White House.

And worse now, albeit unspoken but deeply objected, that a woman could be elected to follow Obama.

As we look on, recognising how derivative our economy and culture have become to the United States, must we not take the time at all levels - our churches, political parties, educational institutions and civic organisations - to refine and strengthen the values and attitudes we want to hold in common?

Or else we might end up one day being seduced by someone like The Donald.

- Ronald Thwaites is a member of parliament for Central Kingston and opposition spokesman on education. Email feedback to