Guest Column

Trump: the Agent Orange of US politics

2016-10-18 08:38

Susan Erasmus

You can say what you want to about Donald Trump, but whether he wins or not, he has already got what he wanted: the attention of the world.

And that’s the thing about Narcissists that others don’t always understand – they don’t particularly care about whether the attention is positive or negative, they just cannot get enough of it. Ever. Watch them puff up before the cameras, and visibly inflate before adoring crowds. Attention is their heart-lung machine.

Quite a shocker to think that even if you open your mouth to criticise him, on some level you are stroking that boundless ego. And here I am, writing about him, compounding the problem.

A visceral reaction to brashness

My visceral reaction to this man surprised me. But it was only recently that I read a book by anthropologist Kate Fox, called “Watching the English”, that I realised to what an extent people in the former English-speaking colonies of Britain, even people like me, whose mother tongue is not English, have absorbed English culture and their norms of social interaction.

The English, as she says, thrive on self-deprecating humour and irony. They shy away from attracting attention to themselves, making scenes, they detest brashness, overt displays of wealth, they take a long time to trust people, and value understatement.  (Not saying that’s how everyone should be, but much of our SA society functions along these lines on a social level, whether we like it or not).

And that, in short, is everything that Trump is not. He is the Agent Orange of US politics. He strides forth with an air of self-congratulation and a sense of his own importance that make many people (Americans included) cringe.

Why Trump’s supporters love him

But it is this very smugness that elates his crowds of supporters. To them he is the living example of a self-made man (what about the $14 million his father lent him?), a beacon of hope in a world where success is usually dependent on real insight, diplomacy, qualifications and hard slog.

He also panders to bigotry, which is often the last-ditch refuge of the unsuccessful and dissatisfied. In a Narcissist’s world, everything that goes wrong is someone else’ fault: Mexicans, the disabled, fat people, women, gay people, Muslims and so forth. In short, anyone who is not a white man, like himself. In a quote attributed to John Bright, a 19th century British statesman: “He is a self-made man who worships his creator”.

Look, make no mistake, this guy has got somewhere by being a bully, blowing his own trumpet and pushing his way into the front of the queue. He doesn’t seem to think he has to do the hard work and the preparation, even for a live presidential debate, or play by the rules. He makes it up as he goes along, and he thinks he is bright enough to fool all the bozos (like you and me) out there.

Rules are for other, lesser people

That’s the thing about Narcissists – they really do think they are brighter than everyone else, they feel less than nothing for other people, who are only used as instruments for their own ambitions. That is how one of the richest people in the US truly thinks he can get away with not making known his tax returns. Or paying any taxes – we are still waiting to hear if he did. Rules are for other people. Narcissists think they’re special, and above all those little inconveniences.

That’s where Trump’s attraction lies for people who might never have had the opportunities – an example to follow of ‘fake it till you make it’. He says it like it is, but it’s just a pity he can’t remember what that was yesterday. Or will be tomorrow.

Trump is the smirking. end-of-the-line end product of the motivational, self-help book industry: If you can dream it, you can be it.

For others, he is a grim reminder of a mixture between the class bully/class clown, the sports captain and the self-righteous son of the chairperson of the PTA. Just depends on your vantage point.

And if he is celebrated for speaking honestly, it’s not because he is pushing any agenda but his own. There is a grim solitary quest for determined self-glorification. The kind of victory that is celebrated with an eloquent “Gotcha’.

And Clinton?

What about Clinton? That’s a topic for another column. Suffice to say that she might not be the kind of person I would have chosen as a best friend, but she seems to work hard, she has the insight and experience, she won’t be a constant international embarrassment as far as I can tell, and her hair isn’t done by the southeaster, and she doesn’t look like or behave like the love child of Adolf Hitler and Liberace.

Truth is that no woman (or very few politicians, for that matter) would have got where she is by being sweet and nice. And I am lucky enough to already have many other good friends. I don’t have to look for them among presidential candidates, thank goodness.

The sad thing is that I wonder how many people realise this is not some sort of reality TV show. It’s people’s lives we are speaking of here. Not some hour-long episode at the end of which you can tell a contestant: ”You are fired!”

OK, that’s Trump done and dusted. Heaven forbid that he becomes the leader of the free world. They would have to rename it very swiftly if he did.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    donald trump  |  hillary clinton  |  us  |  us elections 2016

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