On Donald the Clown!

The Loud mouthed Jackass who would be king

 

A Triumph Of Vulgar Materialism?

Recently one of the night time comedians put up pictures of American businessman Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jung Ill and asked: “which one of these guys has the strangest haircut?”  It was close; six on the one hand and a half dozen on the other, as my grandfather used to say.  Both of them are some silly looking buffoons!    But that’s not all these two mugs have in common: both are megalomaniacal autocrats; both are bullies; both live in vulgar opulence while many of their countrymen are engaged in a Darwinian struggle to put bread on the table; and both are enamored with celebrities in the entertainment world.  The biggest difference between them is that one is the head of a government and the other it’s not.  And we must do all that we can to keep it that way!

Who’s got the Silliest Haircut

The Donald                                                Kim Jung Ill

Although there is every reason to believe that the promise of a Trump Presidential campaign is a cynical hoax by the biggest hype artist since P.T. Barnum, with no higher purpose than self- aggrandizement, Donald’s cry for attention is further polluting the standing cesspool of Republican political rhetoric.  Trump is appealing to the oldest of American prejudices: nativism and racism.  By making an issue of the place of Barack Obama’s birth, thus calling into question the legitimacy of his Presidency, Donald the Clown is tapping into the racist rage of the clueless clowns on the Republican right; where 50% of  the Party believes that our President was born in Kenya!  This is dangerous stuff; trump is playing with dynamite.    Especially in the crude way that he is going about it.  Not only is it the sort of tasteless ignorant prattle that should disqualify anyone form serious consideration for the US presidency, it could incite unstable racist to violence.

The question we need to ask ourselves is what does it tell us about the character of contemporary American society that and odoriferous scoundrel and pugnacious poseur like Donald Trump could be considered presidential material?   A pompous plutocrat with no record of public service – in or out government – the only thing Donald trump has to run on is his fame and his fortune, which according to several savvy business observers is grossly exaggerated.

For instance, Trump filed a lawsuit against Timothy O’Brien, the author of “Trump Nation: The Art of Being the Donald, because the crack investigative reporter argued that “The Donald’ is not a multi-billionaire, in fact he’s not a billionaire at all.  O’Brien estimates that Trump’s fortune is somewhere between 150 and 250 thousand dollars.   When Trump could produce no documentary evidence to support his extravagant claims that he was worth around five billion, he said the difference between his verifiable evidence and his claims was based on the value of his brand!

By which he means the Trump name.  However many financial analyst argue that his name is in fact Trumps most valuable asset, because it allows him to shill for real business organizations by renting out his name to projects for a fee.  But even if his fortune was what he said it is, that does not qualify him to be President. The fact that many Americans find Trump’s assets, such as they are, to be sufficient qualifications to represent this nation in the most powerful office in the world, verifies the prophetic nature of Dr. WEB DuBois’ warning in 1903.

As the American industrial revolution matured and the new robber barons were dubbed “Captains of Industry,” they became the nation’s role models and worship of wealth became a civic religion.  Writing in a 1903 essay titled “On the Wings of Atlanta,” Dr. Dubois warned that the worship of wealth was sweeping aside all other values, and if that trend continued there would come a time when wealth would be considered the cure for everything in the minds of Americans.  Dr. Dubois’ prognosis about the moral corruption and confusion resulting from the mindless and obscene worship of money was echoed in the observations of his fellow Afro-American sociologist, and Howard University Dean, Kelly Miller.

Comparing the leadership styles of the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Miller observed: Douglass lived in a time of moral giants, when men revered the golden rule.  Washington lives in an age of Merchant princes, who are only concerned with the rule of gold.    Douglass had passed away earlier in 1895, before Washington gave his famous speech at “The World Exposition Of Cotton Growing States,” which DuBois called “The Atlanta Compromise” because Washington bartered away hard won Civil Rights for black Americans in exchange for them being able to fully participate in America’s economy and bring an end to the murderous reign of white terror directed against African Americans.  This single speech made Booker T. Washington Douglass’ successor as the spokesman for black Americans in the eyes of the white males that ruled the nation.

Although DuBois admired Washington’s devotion to uplifting the masses of blacks in America, who had only recently emerged from slavery, he was skeptical of Washington’s vision of the education of black Americans.  Hence in his seminal essay “Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others,” he observed that while Washington’s rise to power was the most spectacular development in southern history since the end of the Civil War, he attributed his success to being in step with the Zeitgeist- the spirit of his times.  In a nation of triumphant capitalism he observed: “Washington preaches a gospel of work and money.”  Dubois went on to observe: “If you teach a people to only make money you will produce money makers but not men!”

Alas, this is what all education is becoming, as corporate money increasingly shapes the research priorities of Americas great universities; lavishly funding their chosen academic programs while starving the humanities.  And many of our best and brightest students are no longer majoring in science and industrial engineering – which made the twentieth century the “American century” – but are concentrating in finance and flocking to Wall Street in the hope of making a fortune manipulating paper in a burlesque of an economy whose manufacturing base continues to shrink like a two dollar shirt!

In such an economic environment a morally handicapped vain braggart like Donald Trump becomes a role model to be widely emulated.  This is the consequence of the worship of personal wealth, and the preoccupation with “the rule of gold” Miller and Dubois  observed at the dawning of the twentieth century.  The trend they identified over a century ago – which I think is an indication of the onset of decadence – has intensified to the point that we are once again living in an era when Plutocracy – the domination of the nations’ affairs by the rich – is ascendant. The emergence of “Donald the Clown” as a presidential prospect – despite his shallow understanding of politics and macro-economics, plus an appalling lack of personal integrity – is irrefutable evidence that the triumph of vulgar materialism in America is complete!

 

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Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

April 4, 2011

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