Friday, 11 November 2016

Good Luck America

From joke to reality, the unimaginable has taken place. A businessman made infamous by a reality TV show has become the leader of the free world.

This term 'leader of the free world' came about when life was simpler, when the lines drawn were hard and opaque like the Iron Curtain, not murky or mired, when the United States of America was the light of hope, freedom and opportunity. The funny thing about the past year though is that these descriptors were turned on their heads by the very man who is now going to take office in January.

He arguably won the election because he flipped the political checkerboard, threw the game, rules and decorum out the window, didn’t care where the pieces landed and who got hurt. Donald the Disruptor. Advertising agencies are going to be using this example for years to come when trying to sell new ideas to clients. Kudos for winning I guess, albeit by electoral college system rather than actual numbers.

Those final results were so so close though, separated by less than 0.2%, less than 250,000 votes from the total of 120 million ballot papers counted. The American people were clearly split down the middle. I don’t know how many spoiled ballots there were but at least 11,000 votes were for Harambe, the gorilla that was shot and killed at Cincinnati Zoo in May. These votes could have perhaps made some difference in the results for states where the percentage fell a stone’s throw on either side of 50-50. Six states had their fates sealed by margins less than 1.5%. These states had 89 electoral college seats up for grabs, enough to swing the situation and to have kept my gag reflex at bay.

Just 20 states gave Trump a clearer mandate, based on a 10% or more margin. That’s only 20 out of 51. In my opinion, if someone’s going to be voted in for a job so important, with an electorate so diverse and multi-intentioned, first-past-the-post judgements can’t apply. It’s got to be at least be 60% of the people who give him or her the thumbs up, else there’s going to be enough discontent mice with emotional sour grapes among the losers that could spark off protests and fights.

Trump did turn things into a unstable powder keg after all. He used his fame well, to sell himself as the saviour businessman who’d solve the country’s woes. It became easy to fan the flames of anger to those who felt they had been left behind, who now think someone is listening and can relate to their troubles and seemingly solve their problems. What’s scary though was that Trump picked on people to blame for lost jobs and low economic growth. With hurtful and unkind words, he blamed foreigners and immigrants, and countries to where these jobs went. Those who paid attention him had nothing to lose because they had lost so much already. It's easy for a media-savvy braggadocious character to fill that void with ideas, scary, dangerous ones even. People with nothing to lose often do stupid things. We’ve seen so many videos of racially insensitive behaviour that’s come to the fore of late. The perpetrators likely believe that it’s ok now since Trump is behind them, egging them on to manifest their hate as verbal and physical violence. Now that he is president, I expect more of such trouble.

Those who voted with their riled up emotions for Trump are wrong though. It may take a day to change the leader of a nation but it’ll take years or decades to get the gears of a nation's economy turning again. Not quite the way things change split-second on TV but how sobering reality works in real life, not behind a camera and video editing booths. Nothing will be instant. That’s when the anguish of slow, frustrating progress, if any, will sink in. In fact, if Donald cancels existing trade agreements, makes enemies with China and the rest of the world, forces US companies to relocate back home to pay high manufacturing costs, keeps taxes low for the wealthy, nothing’s gonna change. It might even get a whole lot worse for the common man. If he continues with his mad rhetoric, expect an isolated, introverted America. Only their movies and music will make money abroad.

No one’s really clear how big American businesses will need to pander to his whims and fancies. Disruption is good when the outcomes change things for the better, including profits. Not so great for businesses when their costs are going to skyrocket. Trump said in January “We're going to get Apple to build their damn computers and things in this country instead of in other countries.” Let’s say this does happen and Apple is expected to pay fair wages to employees at new factories in the US, it’s clear the prices of their products have to go up to meet these new operating expenses. Their stuff isn’t cheap to begin with and if prices go up some more, consumers would simply say no and move on. How would Apple’s bottomline look like then? If he imposed taxes on American companies which don't comply, they might just move out of the US to keep their margins going. That'll be a shame, a tremendous shame.

I predict by the end of 2017 the voices of discontent will come from his own support base who is probably expecting a lot more than what the new president can deliver. They’ll tear down the facade he’s created when he goes on television with excuses, delays and political hangups. No more business guru who’ll save the day. Just a p*ssy-grabbing loudmouth on stage exposed, cold and shivering from the shame of being finally caught out. Perhaps I’m being dramatic. Maybe he’ll get lucky and survive an impeachment.

What I am not looking forward to is the collateral damage, the victims of Trump’s plans, the ones who believed in the American promised land, who will have to deal with shattered dreams for themselves and their children. The fallout of people. I am unsure, unclear and slightly afraid to find out what’s around the corner. He’s talked so much shit and been such an arse to so many people, I wonder how he could ever make things work much less get the respect of his colleagues and peers. I hope he gets back his Twitter access because I’ve missed his midnight rants.

Good luck America.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

A Matter Of Time

Or rather, putting some aside to get some writing done. A timetable, that's what I need, a routine to ironically be less routine. Routine writing. The rolling of the r's in that has a positive ring to it. Wring even, to twist out all the dormant juices. Like a quiet volcano, just murmuring and one day spewing noxious gas and vomiting glowing lava. Yup, that's me. Noxious and glowing. 

Sunday, 13 December 2015

The Paris Attacks And After

I wrote this in parts over the weeks since 13 November. At home, on the train, at work, on my phone and on my work computer. It sort of makes sense and doesn't. Disjointed, like the news that shaped my thoughts. Before I scrap it, I think I should put it out there. They are still words from inside. Then start again. 


Who is the terrorist?

You are. You who is lucky not to know any violence because everything bad that happens is so far away that your ability to emphatize is limited to not being able to find a seat in a cafe or not being able to find a parking lot when many others have to deal with threats, fear, bombs, guns and knives on a daily basis.

You are. You with your bias that who we choose to help should look like you, a view that strikes fear among those who look different, pray different, dress different and eat different. A bias that feeds the fear and sparks the hate.

You are. You with your shock for what happened in Paris and ignorance of and apathy towards the 19 who were killed in Baghdad and the 43 who were killed in Beirut the day before, the 50 injured in Dhaka, 22 killed in Pakistan and 27 killed in Nigeria the month earlier. 

You are. You who keeps your head down and eyes glued to your phone, ignoring the world around you because all that matters is a Facebook tag or an Instagram like, ignoring those who need some help, dismissing the voices and opinions of those who care to make a difference, just cruising along life.  

I'm sorry. I am guilty too. 

Apathy, ignorance, intolerance and indifference - these traits will slowly us turn into the ones that feed the hunger in the terrorists we see on TV, the ones with the Kalashnikovs and suicide vests. They relish the simplicity of knowing you won't fight back or are afraid to interact with those who are not like you or that you wouldn't stand up to defend a stranger. 

Where are our saviours now? I read a couple of weeks ago that members of the Satanic Church were open to give protection to Muslims. Today I read the Sicilian Mafia has warned IS against going too far. The tough guys are now standing up to the enigmatic terror. Funny how tables turn. 

Now that France declared a 'pitiless' campaign to rid their attackers, the question of military might over personal rights needs to be asked. Do we do a Jack Bauer with his all-it-takes antics to get information (and bone marrow) from his captives? What personal freedoms will we surrender for this explicit mass intrusion into our private lives? I'm sure people are asking already, and are worried. 

The onslaught of bombs on Syria began almost a day after the Paris attacks. Russia also started from the other end (amazing how they can fire missiles from ships from over 1,000 miles away, a long awaited display of Russian power with lots of photos, videos and patriotic rhetoric to boot, from their Defence Ministry no less. #chestthump) The ground must be obliterated by now. In the wake of the rapid rebuttal, no one cared to ask about the people on the ground, the ones who couldn't run away. Images are now emerging of the innocent dead. Has Syria and Iraq become everyone's tit-for-tat playground? 

We know the Syrian regime isn't going anywhere anytime soon, now with Russia stepping in as muscular aide confidant. We know the western powers have been aiding different opposing groups in the Middle East to keep their favourites in power or help bring their not-so-compliant dictator down. It's been going on for decades. The difference now is that someone else has decided enough is enough and he wants that power too. The religious spin is just a way to get more people believing in the cause. In the end, it's always about land and resources. (Look at how China is buying up both overseas, to eventually feed and support its own people far away.) it's also about control. The US wants some, the UK wants some, maybe even France wants a piece of the action. Russia clearly has demonstrated its desires with their ongoing wham-bam show. The problem is that these superpowers haven't dictated any terms to make the status quo any better. The Saudis openly behead criminals in the name of Shariah law. No western power has said "Hey you Saudi ruling family, can we tone down on the savagery so that we can work together?" So what's stopping IS from invoking the same law? The Saudis are the keepers of Islam. So monkey see, monkey do? 

I asked my team mates, two Singaporean Chinese guys, at work this question - So what if there was only the IS assholes left in Syria, no one less, would you be ok if some country dropped a nuclear bomb on the place? The father of two said yes almost without hesitation. The other guy, no kids, said no. I'm sure other people are thinking it too - just do a mass clearing of the people, leave the violent Islamist cult there, and blow them to smithereens with a megaflash of blinding light with pretty, white mushroom cloud after. I say no too. It'll open up too many doors that we couldn't come back from. The terrorists will want to get a nuclear device to blow everyone else to Kingdom Come too. We've all seen the movies. This is one version of fiction that needs to stay that way. 

It's making us crazy, and we're likely to make more mistakes before things start to be better. We'll probably be ok with sending in more soldiers and dropping more bombs. And saying stupid things to make everyone just a tad more upset and perhaps unwittingly justifying the terrorists' cause.