A Tale of Two Parties

Posted Feb 22, 2018 at 10:08. Revised Aug 14, 2019 at 08:17.

Just about everyone sees the choice of Donald Trump as America’s next president as an inexplicable surprise. The current political situation is an outstanding example of a Complexity Trap that developed over many decades and has devolved into a perverse simplicity. The election results are not a surprise when you look at the events of the last 50 years as context around the election results rather than looking at them as disconnected and irrelevant.

Indeed, Nobody finds it surprising that so many people are surprised and distraught by the election results. Not liking the election results is a far different matter from whether people are so disconnected from the mood of the country that for days after the election they are incredulous, blindsided, and emotionally incapacitated by the results.

Much discussion and analysis of the presidential election results has already been published, but a very important facet of it has gone unmentioned. The common explanation for the perverse electoral simplicity is that it meets the needs of angry, ignorant, homophobic, xenophobic, and misogynistic white men living in the Heartland. These dopes are perceived as not having the compassion or knowledge of the elite living on the East and West Coasts, and particularly those elites living in Greater Washington DC.

The Heartlanders are dismissed as having almost nothing useful to add to the nation’s political discussions. Herein lies a major piece of why the election turned out the way it did, and why the election of Donald Trump is beyond the comprehension of most Coasties, especially the privileged ones who comprise the Washington elite. Nobody accepts California’s especially important role in adding to nation’s divide, noting that for decades more than a few Heartlanders have referred in frustration to California as “the land of the fruits and the nuts.”

Two major parties are developing out of the watershed election of 2016. They consist mainly, but not exclusively, of the people who identify with the East and West Coasts and those who identify with the Heartland. In general, the Coasties have the intellectual, financial, and governmental elite in their ranks, while the Heartlanders are the workers who produce most of the nation’s goods, services, and basic food commodities. Donald Trump fits into both these parties by living on the East Coast but understands how to relate to the Heartlanders who earn their living by getting their hands dirty. This provides some clarification to how he became the President-Elect.

Trump is at least as in tune with the working class locker room crowd as he is with the country club elite. Being able to function effectively with both these crowds is a rare political skill, but that is a separate discussion from whether that skill has been used in some extremely disruptive ways or that his skills are enough to solve the nation’s problems.

For decades, Nobody has been acutely aware of the patronizing condescension the Coastie elite feels for the Heartland. These elites would never stoop to using the N-word on a group of Blacks but show far worse insensitivity to the productive people that produce much of the nation’s food and product. To the Coastie elitists, America’s breadbasket is shamelessly dismissed with names such as “flyover country” and “the rust belt”. Its citizens are collectively dismissed as xenophobic, misogynists, racist, and religious bigots, and practitioners of a form of Christianity that is not politically correct or “socially acceptable.” These bleached N-words have been thrown about for decades, and the people at whom they are directed are finally fed up being unrelentingly and categorically demeaned and slandered as a class. Indeed, the elitists among the Coasties have effectively become a liberal/progressive KKK engaged in the intellectual lynching of white people who hold dirty hands jobs. The elites who are doing this totally don’t get that relentlessly insulting and demeaning productive people holding dirty hands jobs is politically more explosive than is paying these same people subsistence wages. This bigoted behavior is blindly engaged in by spokespersons for understanding and tolerance.

Now you can honestly say “Nobody told me.”

Copyright © 2016-2019 Charles E. Dial. All rights reserved.
Posted Feb 22, 2018 at 10:08. Revised Aug 14, 2019 at 08:17. –> Retrieved Oct 23, 2019 at 00:43.
Transcript News Feed: https://ct.complexitytrap.org/feed/

Empowering Donald Trump – The Liar

Posted Feb 21, 2017 at 19:36. Revised Sep 6, 2019 at 21:05.

Liar, Liar,
Your pants are on fire;
Your nose is as long
As a telephone wire!

Does this childish playground taunt apply to the President of the United States? Obviously it does, but not exactly….

J.D. Nobody finds it interesting that so many people do not understand the game and the dynamics behind Donald Trump’s winning presidential campaign. An earlier Complexity Traps post comparing Trump to FDR summarized the historic context preceding FDR’s presidency and its similarities to that of Donald Trump. Indeed, Trump’s campaign and post-election actions are right out of FDR’s playbook, as explained in the earlier post. FDR relentlessly vilified his opponents while perfecting the use of radio as a voter-communication tool. JFK later paved the way for Trump by perfecting the use of television as a campaign tool. Trump made the next big campaigning innovation by perfecting the use of social media in political campaigns. A common thread in the Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Trump presidential campaigns is that these presidents conveyed their messages in story form.

Recounting stories and myths while relaxing around an evening fire precedes civilization and remains an important part of life because it appeals to the important human yearning to understand one’s place and role in the universe. Mythology recounts important truths and lessons that are not literally true but recount spellbinding stories that often teach something as well. Many, if not all, of the listeners around the fire understood that those stories and myths were in fact lies and that inconsistency, contradiction, and literal lies are all part of the storytelling process. These lies are sometimes whoppers told for entertainment and to make a point, not to maliciously mislead.

The Greek poet Homer produced the Iliad and the Odyssey. Both works are nothing but literal lies from cover to cover. 2500 years later, millions of people still look to these entertaining lies and recognize that they contain no malicious intent.

The introduction of modern technology and communications has caused traditional storytelling and mythology to become progressively less a part of life, resulting in people becoming progressively more dismissive of myths and stories as just useless lies.

The electronic communication devices that occupy our minds today cannot replace the life enrichment that fireside stories provide. These devices have created a gaping hole in the emotional needs of people who are looking for fulfillment from the human interactions that quench this thirst. Good fireside stories are part of this process.

The shared work and social interaction in occupations such as farming have always produced strong family and neighbor ties. Boasting, storytelling, and great mythology flourish in this environment. It is no surprise that the people who most understand this world are the ones who related best to Donald Trump’s sometimes crude, but folksy and mythopoetic, style of campaigning. They clearly understood that his ideas were to be taken seriously but not literally, whereas those chased away by his campaigning style generally were rebuffed because they took him literally but not seriously.

Those who took Trump literally were horrified because they did not fully understand that storytelling and locker-room boasts are often nothing more than that. A good story involves heroes and villains, escaping danger, and heroes that survive the machinations of the villains. People enjoy good stories even when they know the storyline and the outcome.

Donald Trump’s post-election thank-you tour speech in West Allis, Wisconsin is a good example of his ability to bring these components together to appeal to his audience. The first thing he did in that speech was set a favorable mood by wishing the people in the audience Merry Christmas and thanking them for supporting him. Casting himself in the West Allis speech as a hero, Trump announced that the days of political correctness were over and assured the audience that it was once again OK to wish people Merry Christmas.

Moving on, Trump recounted the days immediately before and after the election. He created the suspense by allowing that Big, Bad Hillary might actually win! He thought he had her cornered, but did he? Would his fever pitch of speeches and rallies just before the election save the day? With the suspense building, there was more fear than hope. Some new hope came when learning that Big Bad Hillary had canceled her post-election fireworks display. She would not have done so unless her confidence in winning was ebbing away.

The story’s fear and tension reached a fever pitch late in Election Day afternoon. Loyal daughter Ivanka Trump called her father with the worrisome message that the exit polls were looking bad and that there appeared to be little hope of winning. Could a level-headed hero turn this suspense into success, especially since the news media and polls had said there was almost no path to the 270 electoral votes needed to defeat the evil Hillary? Was the fever pitch of speeches and rallies in the last three days of the campaign all for nothing? Trump recounted his memory of the large crowds at his rallies and speeches, and he could not believe that so many people would have turned out for his rallies if he were losing.

In a few hours the vote counts would begin to arrive, and the uncertainty would be over. As the critical results from the must-win state of Florida started coming in, the situation continued to look bad but most of the votes from the Florida Panhandle were yet to be reported. With those votes Florida was won. Trump’s path to 270 electoral votes and victory was still open!

The story continued as attention turned to the must-win state of Ohio. The suspense lifted somewhat when it was clear that Ohio was being won by a large margin of votes. Again the path to 270 electoral votes was still open because the wide margin in Ohio bode well for the vote count from other states!

Focus then shifted to the “can’t-win” states of North Carolina and Pennsylvania, because the first vote counts from those states looked a little better than was expected. Trump might be able to win one or both of them! When both states joined the victory column, it became clear that Big Bad Hillary’s earlier taunts that Trump had no path to 270 electoral votes were now starting to look hollow. As the votes piled up, it became ever more clear that it was Big Bad Hillary who had no path to 270 electoral votes. The story was over, and with a heroic happy ending. Dewey had defeated Truman!

The audience, of course, knew the outcome of the story from the start. Hearing the story of the hard-won victory retold was nevertheless inspirational. People who focused solely on the world of facts and logic were clueless that retelling such a story was important and mattered even though the election was over and the entire audience had known the outcome from the beginning. Were parts of the story lies? If so, nobody cared.

Afterword

The research for this post turned up an unexpected Complexity Trap involving just what President Trump said in his West Allis thank-you speech. One would think that it should have been easy to find a complete transcript of Trump’s West Allis remarks, but that was not the case. It was easy to find many snippets of remarks from many different speeches, including the one in West Allis. All of the snippets were out-of-context quotes and in many instances carried distorted connotations due to the omitted text.

Once again, ever-increasing complexity devolves into a simplicity in which sound bites and snippets reduced the records of the West Allis speech to vacuous trivia. It even made the research for this post difficult.

Now you can honestly say “Nobody told me.”

Copyright © 2016-2019 Charles E. Dial. All rights reserved.
Posted Feb 21, 2017 at 19:36. Revised Sep 6, 2019 at 21:05. –> Retrieved Oct 23, 2019 at 00:43.
Transcript News Feed: https://ct.complexitytrap.org/feed/


Trump – The Student of FDR?

Posted Jul 17, 2016 at 10:03. Revised Aug 14, 2019 at 08:17.

History is bunk, right? After all, if that were not the case modern, enlightened, up-to-date educators would not have all but eliminated it from curricula. People familiar with the last seventy years of history might spot a Complexity Trap cycle covering the period from Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) to Donald Trump. Ashes to ashes. J.D. Nobody didn’t know that Donald Trump would become President when this was written, but that is not the point. Beneath the surface, Trump, Roosevelt, and even Abraham Lincoln have some surprising similarities that their respective enthusiasts do not see. J.D. Nobody, however, clearly sees similarities between Trump and FDR.

Years ago J.D. Nobody had an acquaintance who was a deep thinker and scholar of history who understood that history is not bunk. He had an interesting theory: The U.S. has experienced three great crises since its founding, happening about 70 years apart. In his view, each crisis in America’s evolution involved different issues, but each was serious enough to put the country’s very survival in jeopardy.

Several characteristics have been common to all the crisis periods, with oversimplification being a primary one. Each crisis cycle has involved varying degrees of religious ferment in the years preceding its end. Most people underestimate both the complexities and the subtleties of the moment and wake up only when they are finally overwhelmed.

Each crisis has been marked by at least two political factions with strong, growing, deep convictions about whether or how to approach the perceived need for controversial change. The biggest faction is strong enough to block the next largest faction, but not strong enough to win the day. The political parties become more fragmented as the crisis comes to a head, and after the crisis, many voters “go over to the other side.” New political alignments and parties form, albeit some with the same name.

Changes coming out of each crisis period have resulted in at least some Constitutional change in governance. These changes happen either by formal Constitutional amendment or via “amendment by abandonment.” The abandonment route either simply ignores the Constitution’s requirements or uses as much glib lawyering as necessary to reinterpret the Constitution for the convenience of the moment.

Unfortunately, facts and logic become progressively less relevant as the crisis deepens. Both 85 years ago and today, most people have not recognized that the President has limited power to influence most events. Nevertheless, political theatrics have been central to fanning the perception that important political personalities have almost complete power over all events in the world and therefore must get the credit or blame for whatever happens.

The winner in a crisis period Presidential election is a controversial candidate who probably would not have been electable in immediately prior elections. His election victory is largely attributable to his having a dynamic, new personality and being able to seize the changed tone of the times and run with it. Most people perceive him as genuine, honest, and being concerned about them, whether or not he has those qualities. Once in office, the new President is hated by many, partly because of the need to expand presidential power to deal with the problems and partly because he must make decisions that will be widely hated.

“Crisis Zero”: The Revolutionary Period

Depending on how one counts, the U.S. has experienced four crises if one assumes that a crisis begins a cycle rather than ends it. The period between the publication of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the inauguration of George Washington as President in 1789 is Crisis Zero by this reckoning. By J.D. Nobody’s friend’s reckoning, the lead-up to Crisis One started after George Washington was inaugurated and ended with the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861.

Growing, but often unrecognized, relationship complexities and subtleties between England and the Colonies made the “crisis zero” period the first complexity trap in the nation’s history. The escape from the trap into a new era was long and not easy. The outcome of the Revolutionary War was far from certain, and the thirteen-year period under the Articles of Confederation was unstable.

Crisis One: The Constitutional Crisis

After breaking free of the Revolutionary period’s complexity trap, the nation embarked on a period of growth and prosperity fueled by having new territories to populate and by building the first transportation infrastructure. Replacing cowpaths with canals and railroads, growing the nation, and complementing slow mail communications with telegraphy ended in the constitutional complexity trap crisis. This crisis came to a head about 70 years after George Washington’s inauguration.

The Constitutional crisis was over the degree to which the states could govern themselves and whether states had the right to secede from the Union. Slavery was the third issue, and could not be addressed at the federal level because the Constitution reserved the needed authority to the individual states. These three issues resulted in the Civil War once passions on both sides finally reached the boiling point. The Crisis One troubles were highly visible and clearly seen by just about everyone.

Not until after Lincoln’s March 4, 1861 inauguration did this growing complexity trap become a full constitutional crisis. Just about everyone in the country was demonizing someone. Reason was almost completely missing from the scene. Lincoln was an exception to the lack of reason because he had a perspective tempered by being a Northerner, but had married into a Southern family.

When the war started most people thought the troubles would be resolved quickly because the other side would turn tail and run once confronted on the battlefield. The war’s opening battle – the First Battle of Bull Run, also called the Battle of First Manassas – occurred on July 21, 1861. The fierce fighting and many casualties sobered both armies, and only then did they realize that the war was going to be much longer and bloodier than either side had anticipated.

Many Washington, D.C. residents were so sure the rebellion would not last long that they came to the battlefield with picnics to see the rebels’ defeat. Instead, when the battle was over the picnickers were fleeing for their lives. Similarly, most people caught up in the next two crises were initially prone to minimizing the situation.

Initially, Lincoln’s thinking was that upholding the Constitution and keeping the nation together were more important than the slavery issue. Toward the war’s end, Lincoln changed his mind and made ending slavery his top priority. Deep wounds remained on both sides long after the war ended.

As in the later crises, the adversaries on each side were partly right. The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution denies all power to the federal government that the Constitution does not explicitly grant to the federal government. The Constitution makes it abundantly clear that the South was essentially correct on the states’ rights issue, while the North was right on the slavery issue. Ending slavery required a Constitutional amendment to give the federal government the expanded power needed.

The de facto Constitutional changes coming from Crisis One advanced the erosion of the Tenth Amendment’s original intent. This slow but relentless shift of power to the federal government caused both the people and the states to look progressively more to the federal government for solutions to problems.

Curiously, Britain’s recent vote to withdraw from the European Union is a modern “states’ rights” issue. In its way, history is repeating itself.

In the U.S., the political party alignments changed by Crisis One lasted for 70 to 100 years and reflected the growing trend toward more central power and a changed electorate. The new Republican Party became both the party of blacks who were able to vote and an advocate for more central power and business interests. The new Democratic Party became the party of farmers, laborers, and Southern whites. These somewhat illogical alignments slowly restructured themselves along more logical lines as a result of the 1965-1980 Civil Rights reforms.

Crisis Two: The Financial Crisis

Crisis Two, by the reckoning of J.D. Nobody‘s friend, was the financial crisis of the Great Depression. The Crisis Two complexity trap ended a 64 year period of growth and prosperity that was fueled by new territories to populate, industrialization, improved communication, and transportation innovations. In the course of one lifetime, the nation had become a nation of 48 states, a rapidly growing world industrial and financial power connected by rail, radio, telegraph, and telephone communications, and home to a growing urban, immigrant population. Television and aviation existed, but neither was ready for general use. World War One had transformed the country from a debtor nation into a creditor nation.

The 1920s were the culmination of the prosperity that came from all those developments. These new complexities set the stage for massive sociological, economic, and political change and launched the second crisis – almost 70 years after the first one. The world was far more complex sociologically than it had been 70 years earlier.

Herbert Hoover was the man in the White House when the roof fell in. Herbert Hoover, who preceded FDR as President, was widely perceived as responsible for the 1929 stock market crash and the serious depression that developed during Hoover’s term in office. By the end of his term, Hoover became soundly reviled by most of the public, similar to what President Barack Obama has experienced.

The spectacular 1929 stock market crash extended only from September 1929 to November 1929 and was attributable more to corrective market forces than to either any presidential actions or to the deteriorating economy. A major bull market followed the 1929 crash and continued until June 1930. Only then did the big, nearly three-year-long stock market trip to the bottom begin. This second stock market collapse was primarily a reflection of the failing economy and not the cause of the failure.

In Crisis Two, things fell apart to a far greater degree than just about anyone had thought possible. Financial difficulties fed on themselves as many solid loans and financial arrangements went bad along with the shaky ones. No doubt existed about the seriousness of the situation because the troubles were plainly visible, and everyone could see them everywhere. The economic disintegration had caused massive damage to the nation’s ability to produce food, clothing, and shelter. For many citizens, survival was now an issue.

The law required the Federal Reserve to protect the dollar by maintaining strong bank reserves, so the Fed had to raise interest rates to comply with the law. This tightening helped strangle the limping economy and made it impossible for many people and businesses to pay back bank loans. These bad loans then caused many banks to fail, making it progressively more difficult for the economy to work.

No economic group had wanted the troubles or benefitted from them, but there were plenty of simpletons with naively incomplete answers about how to fix things and whom to blame. The big difference between then and now is that today’s difficulties are not as overtly obvious as were those in the 1930s, but today many more simpletons are probably endowed with “the” answer. Complexity traps breed a backlash of simpletons.

The growing social, economic, and financial complexities after World War I eventually collapsed into chaotic simplicity and national despair. The situation provided the perfect setup for scapegoating those in positions of responsibility and blaming them for a colossal mess which they had only partly created. People love simple explanations for problems. Notice any similarities to today?

The 1932 election chose Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the next President in an atmosphere of much vitriol. The political tone of the times was not about to listen to the sitting President, even when his ideas made sense. Notice any similarities to today?

An opportunistic Congress had blocked Hoover’s ideas until FDR could get the credit for addressing the problems of the times. Notice any similarities to today? Indeed, Hoover had tried to carry out various of the ideas FDR implemented once he was in office.

The Hoover Presidency started at a time when civility and respect for both the presidency and the person of the president were normal but ended on a very different note. The nearly complete breakdown of political civility and growing political venom made the transition from Hoover to Roosevelt quite nasty and needlessly worsened the economic damage to the country. Notice any similarities to today?

During the transition period, Hoover repeatedly asked Roosevelt what he (Hoover) could do in his last days as President to smooth the transition into the Roosevelt Presidency and keep the crisis from becoming even worse. Roosevelt was not statesman enough to accept Hoover’s offer because he would not risk allowing a political “enemy” to be involved in part of the solution – even for the good of the country. More cooperation doubtless would have helped make the four-month transition between the presidents less damaging, but FDR saw increasing the damage to the country as a low price to pay to maximize the damage to a political opponent.

On Roosevelt’s inauguration day this situation rose to a crescendo of boorish indecency toward the departing President. Once the new President was sworn in, Hoover was forced to walk, alone, to the train station. No simple act of courtesy such as driving the former President to the train station or thanking him for giving his best efforts under often impossible circumstances occurred. Doing so would have risked both elevating the former President above demon level and reduced the “politically necessary” rancor the nation was feeling toward the “enemies” of the new administration. Notice any similarities to today?

Many people agreed with the actions taken by FDR to deal with the crisis, but many others were violently opposed, thinking the changes were a great mistake. The actions taken in the 1930s resulted in an intensely hot discussion between those who believed that FDR was saving the nation and those who believed that he was destroying it – a discussion that continues to this day.

Only one other instance of a catastrophic financial crisis has unfolded during the transition from a Republican President to a Democratic President. In the 2008 transition, George W. Bush and Barack Obama coordinated and cooperated effectively and with some gentility and civility. That situation was at high risk of becoming a financial Armageddon that would engulf the entire world, but fortunately, a few big men acted quickly and decisively to prevent disaster. The Presidential staffs focused on dealing with the problem at hand, not on vilifying their counterparts or maximizing their personal glory.

Both Trump and FDR have understood well that politics is theater and that their acting skills must be good enough to keep supporters from seeing through their performances. Conversely, it is equally important that their detractors see through the dishonesty and phoniness of those on the other side. This theater, in turn, feeds a self-reinforcing anger among the supporters and detractors, anger that further increases supporters’ motivation.

Building a power base via mutual vilification keeps the supporters as motivated as possible. This strategy works best when your supporters significantly, but not overwhelmingly, outnumber your detractors. You want your opponents to be strong enough to make a lot of threatening noise, but not strong enough to win. Although Lincoln did not extensively use vilification, it worked in 1862 and 1932, and it still works today.

The truth probably is that FDR saved the country from an even bigger disaster, but he also did some long-term damage in the process. The proud independence and self-reliance that most Americans had during the Depression lessened in the following decades and progressively more borrowing decreased the financial independence of most consumers.

This trend probably occurred because the growing complexity of post-Depression life gave people fewer simple, clear choices and less control over the growing complexities that they faced. Their slowly eroding self-reliance and decreasing ability to control their destiny and cope with growing complexity has forced people to look increasingly to the government for solutions to problems. This trend has not turned the land of the free and the home of the brave into the land of the freeloaders and the home of the bravado, but the trend is in that direction.

Crisis Three: The Cultural Crisis

The third great crisis, by the reckoning of J.D. Nobody‘s friend, arrived about 70 years after the previous crisis. J.D. Nobody‘s friend viewed this cultural crisis as probably the most serious of the crises to date because it goes to the heart of everything that the nation is. Everyone alive at the time of the first two crises could plainly see the troubles everywhere, whereas a cultural crisis is much more intangible and invisible. People know that something is very wrong but cannot clearly articulate what it is.

The more we reflect on the times in which we live, the more we notice the similarities between today and the times at the bottom of the Great Depression in 1932–1933. Both situations have involved colossal political upheavals having many similar crisis attributes. Emotions often transcend logic when such crises deepen.

In the first and third crises, many people threatened to leave the country if Abraham Lincoln or Donald Trump, respectively, were elected. Lincoln was thoroughly hated by much of the country for the duration of his presidency. Only after his death did Lincoln become a national hero.

Even though the party labels are reversed today, it is interesting that Donald Trump has learned presidential theater well from perhaps his best mentor – Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Both Trump and Roosevelt are renegade agents of change who are totally hated by “the establishment.” Both are men of great wealth who have put themselves forward as populists. Their most enthusiastic supporters are the people who hate wealth and privilege the most. Trump has gained their support by speaking to them in locker-room English rather than country club English and by dressing accordingly.

Roosevelt, like Trump, was notorious for glib double-talk that his supporters loved. FDR’s relentless vilification of bankers and industrialists played extremely well in Peoria but did little to build the bridges that could have helped heal the nation. In a sense, Roosevelt was a lifetime ahead of his time politically, with the difference being that he focused his double-talk on largely innocent bankers and industrialists, while Trump has focused his double-talk on Mexicans and Muslims.

Counterproductive slander is counterproductive slander, but it is a major ingredient in a crisis election. In pursuing the Presidency both Trump and Roosevelt have allowed the pursuit of political gain to demean both the office and the path to it.

One can only guess what psychological forces might have turned Trump and Roosevelt into emotional pieces of work obsessed with completely destroying their adversaries. Some of this would have been influenced by the homes in which they grew up. Trump hardly grew up in a gentle, teddy-bear atmosphere; FDR’s mother, Sarah Delano, was an overwhelming force in the lives of those around her, dominating FDR’s entire life until nearly the end of his second term as President.

In today’s history-exempt world almost nothing interconnects over time with anything else, and everything is somebody else’s fault. Nevertheless, the lives of FDR and Trump interconnect in that both came to the forefront in rapidly changing times with the recognition that the previous ways of doing things were on their way out. Theatrics and maverick behavior are the primary ways in which FDR and Trump have led their electorate away from the familiar and got the public to regard the newly evolving world as normal.

Of course, Trump is much cruder than FDR ever was, but we are living in much cruder times. Today the world is in an international cultural crisis, whereas FDR faced only a national financial crisis. After allowing for the differences between the times in which these two men have lived, their similarities stand out more strongly than do their differences. As long as people see history as bunk, people won’t connect many of these dots.

In short, both FDR and Trump are very wealthy men from the Establishment who have deep support from the common people. Both have been able to speak the language of the average person at times when that skill has mattered and to successfully appeal to those endowed with gullible ignorance.

History also says that, like FDR, if Trump is elected he will have his periods of political cheapness, such as 1933–1939, and periods of effective leadership, such as 1939–1945. Could today’s sins of Donald Trump be long-delayed and exaggerated blowback from the sins of FDR, and even from earlier leaders – a perverse payback, with compounded interest?

Now you can honestly say “Nobody told me.”

Copyright © 2016-2019 Charles E. Dial. All rights reserved.
Posted Jul 17, 2016 at 10:03. Revised Aug 14, 2019 at 08:17. –> Retrieved Oct 23, 2019 at 00:43.
Transcript News Feed: https://ct.complexitytrap.org/feed/

A Tale of Two Factories

Posted Jun 26, 2016 at 08:47. Revised Aug 14, 2019 at 08:17.

For many years, two similarly sized factories in a small manufacturing town produced similar products but produced their product using very different employee relations.

The workers in the first factory were paid like dirt but treated like kings. Management was solicitous toward the workers and was concerned about both the personal and work-related problems of its employees. Management tried to fix problems that workers encountered in doing their work, and the workers were happy with their working conditions. These workers were not unionized and had good employee relations with management.

The workers in the second factory were paid like kings but treated like dirt. Rudeness and patronizing condescension toward the workers were the order of the day for management. In turn, the operating philosophy of most of the workers was “Make sure you screw management before it screws you.” Employee relations in this factory centered on a strong union that was forever engaged in ugly and often stupid fights with management.

It should be clear from this that unions are only partly about pay levels and safe working conditions. The way employers treat people and the dignity the people enjoy usually matters a great deal more. In all relationships genuine manners are cheap, and rudeness and arrogance are expensive.

The moral of this story applies far more widely than just to factory labor relations. The Brexit event and turmoil in Europe and North America are all a direct consequence of the “establishment’s” misunderstanding of how to deal with its “peons.” The “establishment” easily lulls itself into complacency by believing that its superior education and wisdom entitles it to lay down rules that will protect the ignorant masses from themselves – similar to the way a farmer looks out for a barn full of animals. The peons further feed the complacency by not fighting back until they erupt over the wrong thing, at the wrong time, and at the wrong place. Rational observers are then dumbfounded over the uproar when the peons finally “have had enough.”

This elitist perception develops in somewhat different ways in extreme conservatives and extreme “progressives,” but the common thread is that they both treat average people as inferiors. Conservatives see these people as inferior and needing to have correct thinking done for them by the knowledgeable and informed. Progressives often see average people as bigoted and lacking a politically correct tolerance for those who differ from themselves, so many “progressives” subscribe to a twenty-first-century version of the “white man’s burden” – a patronizing and demeaning compassion for those whom they regard as helpless dopes.

In both cases, the greater wisdom of the elite must prevail, and with the same results. This force-fed wisdom belittles and insults the worth and competence of average people – a guaranteed formula for strife in both labor relations and politics. When looking down on people finally results in strong, nasty unions or a revolution at the ballot box, the elitists who have caused the problem simply cannot believe that they have had anything to do with bringing about an upheaval.

The more enlightened people in the labor and business worlds understand that they must cooperate as much as possible to avoid the ill will that comes from destroying the dignity of those in lesser positions. An enterprise requires employees to function, and employees require an enterprise to have jobs. The economic need to make money is a powerful incentive for reasonableness on both sides.

Enlightened government bureaucrats also recognize the need for enlightened and respectful treatment of the entities affected by their actions. When managerial power runs amuck as much as it has in the European Union (EU) bureaucracy, it often adds a stiff and inappropriate dose of morality and self- righteousness to the managerial mix. No matter that most management decisions inherently lack a moral dimension; these bureaucrats often see violations of moral precepts everywhere and believe stomping on these violations to be their moral duty.

The self-perception of regulators is critical to how effective their regulations will be. Those filled with self-righteousness toward the business community can generate more problems than they solve. Regulators do much damage when they go on blind, self-serving power trips and impulsive missions to stomp out evil. When they don’t see the folly in this approach, the prosperity of all is hurt.

A much better regulatory paradigm is one based on a superficially contradictory view of the regulator’s responsibilities. The regulator needs to be a loving parent toward those regulated and wants to do everything possible to help the regulated children succeed while tolerating no misbehavior. Regulators that do not carefully listen to the regulated only make lawyers rich at the expense of the rest of society. Historically, war happens when the failure to listen gets bad enough.

The current penchant for political correctness adds a level of managerial patronizing that does not sit well with the average worker. The average person’s perception of his or her situation is what matters, and that perception may, in fact, be either right or wrong. The patronizing bureaucrat’s summary dismissal of the average person’s views only further inflames the situation. Moreover, people who profess to be concerned about “the little guy” often dismiss any resistance they meet from the average person as ignorance, bigotry, or intolerance.

The backlash from the masses extends to not trusting politically correct reporting by the media. A case in point is the initial reporting by BBC radio of British MP Jo Cox’s assassination. By being politically correct and omitting immediately available facts, the automatic suspicion by listeners was that the assassin was probably an Islamic nut case. In an injustice to the Muslim community, the BBC took its time to make it clear that the assassin was not a UK immigrant or Muslim. (After all, whatever your religious views, race, nationality, and ethnicity may have no relationship to anything except bigotry – so those endowed with superior righteousness must not report politically incorrect facts!) Moreover, hours passed before the BBC revealed whether Jo Cox was campaigning for or against remaining in the European Union. Why was this quite significant and immediately available fact delayed for hours?

Similarly, matters have not been helped by the reluctance of EU bureaucrats and the press to recognize fully that large groups of people, especially in Europe, have valid, real, and genuine concerns about how large-scale immigration impacts their culture, safety, and way of life. In various instances, these concerns are in fact intolerance, but the patronizing elite’s demeaning denial of the views and feelings of its electorate often infuriates the extremes on both the right and the left. The elite sees such condescending arrogance as morally justified resistance to the ignorance of the masses even though the issues the people are worrying about are real. This insulting attitude by “leadership” guarantees a revolt sooner or later.

The elitists have little awareness that they have not understood the message in A Tale of Two Factories. Looking down on people as if they are ignorant, stupid, or bigoted does nothing to add to love and understanding. Someone needs to tell the elite that even though the average person may, in fact, be ignorant, stupid, or bigoted, none of those attributes necessarily mean that the person is wrong. Wrong is a fourth attribute, and only mutual respectfulness can trump wrong.

Unless genuine respect and tolerance can become the order of the day, the EU is doomed. Peons always know something, and they will be infuriated by the condescending arrogance in being accused of bigotry. Such accusations infuriate even more when they contain some truth.

A proven way to correct the antagonisms among current EU citizens exists, but it is probably not practical. The people in the EU, and their bureaucrats in particular need a common enemy to stop them from acting like a cage full of gerbils that eat their babies. They already have that common enemy: themselves. If that enemy isn’t good enough for them, Vladimir Putin will do his best to fill in.

EU bureaucrats seem to have an immunity to learning that is beyond the range of their myopic overspecialization – a direct consequence of ever-growing complexity. Europe needs to be put into a large conference room with lots of beer on the table. Once in the conference room, no one will be allowed to leave or go to the bathroom until all the beer is gone and everyone has agreed to respect each other and work together.

Now you can honestly say “Nobody told me.”

Copyright © 2016-2019 Charles E. Dial. All rights reserved.
Posted Jun 26, 2016 at 08:47. Revised Aug 14, 2019 at 08:17. –> Retrieved Oct 23, 2019 at 00:43.
Transcript News Feed: https://ct.complexitytrap.org/feed/

American Political DTs and BSs

Posted Apr 22, 2016 at 10:08. Revised Aug 14, 2019 at 08:17.

DT is a particularly interesting phenomenon in the context of the last 120 years of American political history. This history seems to involve a mythology that is only partially borne out in fact and is bolstered by progressively muddying the distinction between fact and opinion. There seems to be a growing propensity for people to have ever greater difficulty distinguishing the difference between what they believe in, what they think they want, and what they really want.

The most basic attribute of politics is that politics is theater and storytelling, pure and simple. It is no coincidence that most elected politicians are lawyers, and specifically trial lawyers. A successful trial lawyer’s presentation to a jury is theater and stories in their highest form, as is a politician’s presentation to the electorate. How lawyers (and politicians) stretch the truth is explained further in the post Insulting Vladimir Putin.

The most prominent presidents of the last 120 years all have had excellent acting skills. Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton come to mind as being at the top of the heap in the world of political theater. In this world, most people cannot keep the difference between fact and opinion straight. Whether a person likes any of these four presidents or their policies, is a separate issue from whether they had good acting skills.

In the lead-up to the 1980 election many regarded Ronald Reagan as a nut case that stood no chance of winning a national election. He won because many voters instinctively felt that there was something right about Reagan and that things were horribly amiss in the country.

A similar situation has occurred for Donald Trump. The Animals In The Barnyard (the voters) exhibited the same nervousness that often precedes an earthquake. The animals in the political barnyard are not very articulate about what upsets them, but their instincts and concerns are deep and real.

In this environment DT – whether you like him or not – had what it took to go all the way to the White House. He will probably be more competent than his detractors would have us believe, and not as successful as his supporters expect. The same could have been said for BS, although his naiveté and shallow thinking were worrisome.

Now you can honestly say “Nobody told me.”

Copyright © 2016-2019 Charles E. Dial. All rights reserved.
Posted Apr 22, 2016 at 10:08. Revised Aug 14, 2019 at 08:17. –> Retrieved Oct 23, 2019 at 00:43.
Transcript News Feed: https://ct.complexitytrap.org/feed/

Myers-Briggs Meets Politics

Posted Apr 3, 2016 at 19:13. Revised Aug 14, 2019 at 08:17.

J.D. Nobody cannot help but notice the intuitive connections between some concepts from Jungian psychology and various personalities in the 2016 American presidential contest – Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. The Myers-Briggs® psychological inventory (test) and its underlying Jungian concepts reveal much about commonalities between these two personalities that each would no doubt hotly deny. Looking at these personalities through Jungian and traditional Chinese eyes reveals some things that American eyes miss.

American eyes typically view conflicting situations as having “either-or” choices having simple, conflicting cause and effect relationships. The traditional Chinese and Jungian view sees such situations as being the result of two opposing forces that are bound together, normally work together, and only sometimes come into conflict with each other.

The Myers-Briggs approach to understanding different people provides a way for describing different personalities. It does not label personalities judgmentally, but descriptively, in the way that color can describe a car. There is nothing right or wrong or superior or inferior in the Myers-Briggs personality descriptions just as there is nothing inherently good or bad about a yellow vs. green car. In both cases, these are only descriptions, not judgments. Of course, an individual may like certain personality attributes more than others, but that is a separate matter from declaring a particular personality to be inherently good or bad.

To be continued.

Now you can honestly say “Nobody told me.”

Copyright © 2016-2019 Charles E. Dial. All rights reserved.
Posted Apr 3, 2016 at 19:13. Revised Aug 14, 2019 at 08:17. –> Retrieved Oct 23, 2019 at 00:43.
Transcript News Feed: https://ct.complexitytrap.org/feed/

Just Wait

Posted Mar 18, 2016 at 18:22. Revised Aug 23, 2019 at 12:49.

J.D. Nobody recalls the first presidential election in which he was able to vote – the 1964 election between Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson. J.D. Nobody and most of the country was caught up in the fear that Goldwater was a near lunatic who would involve the country in a nuclear war. Despite having served in a fighter squadron with fighter pilots like Goldwater and having met him personally, J.D. Nobody believed the picture of Goldwater painted by the Johnson campaign.

There was recognition that some of what Goldwater was saying was the impulsive bravado of a fighter pilot, and many – including J.D. Nobody – did not recognize that Goldwater’s boast of nuking the Vietnamese into oblivion was only a locker room boast. It was not something he would have done when faced with making a command decision.

J.D. Nobody did have the prescience to see Goldwater’s expressed concerns as legitimate ones that would erupt in a bigger way later if not addressed. J.D. gave some of his ultra-liberal acquaintances the admonition “If you think Goldwater is bad from your point of view, just wait until you see what the pipeline of the future will deliver!”

None of these people could accept that anything worse could happen in the future. In prosecuting the Vietnam war Johnson did everything that Goldwater had advocated, and worse – such as effectively manufacturing the Gulf of Tonkin incident to ensnare America further in the Vietnam War. Johnson had made the first “just wait” happen sooner than anyone expected. Once again, J.D. Nobody’s admonition “if you think this is bad from your point of view, just wait.”.

A “just wait” soon arrived in the person of Richard Nixon. Nixon had some important accomplishments as president, despite there being much hand-wringing over how anybody could be worse than Nixon. Watergate was the best “just wait” yet.

The arrival of Ronald Reagan raised the cries of anguish once again. Nixon was no longer the greatest disaster of all time. J.D. Nobody now pointed out “if you think Ronald Reagan is bad from your point of view, just wait.”.

The cries of “no one could be worse” arose once again for George H. W. Bush. Again, just wait.

With the arrival of the Clintons came a jackboot political machine powered only by the polls. A jackboot political machine is not a bad thing; just a return to normalcy.

Next, there was George W. Bush, and once again the cries of anguish rose to a higher level yet. Ronald Reagan was no longer the greatest disaster of all time. Another opportunity for J.D. Nobody to point out “if you think George W. Bush is bad from your point of view, just wait.”.

And the progression goes on with Donald J. Trump and Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and AOC and Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar…

Notice any pattern?

Tomorrow, there will be someone worse yet. Just wait.

Now you can honestly say “Nobody told me.”

Copyright © 2016-2019 Charles E. Dial. All rights reserved.
Posted Mar 18, 2016 at 18:22. Revised Aug 23, 2019 at 12:49. –> Retrieved Oct 23, 2019 at 00:43.
Transcript News Feed: https://ct.complexitytrap.org/feed/

The Importance of Being Nobody

Posted Feb 22, 2016 at 18:28. Revised Sep 24, 2019 at 19:15.

Being J.D. Nobody makes me a most important person. Indeed, millions of people quote me every day when they find themselves in a mess. The great beauty in being able to say “Nobody told me” is that no one can ever question you about whether it is true or false. You win either way when you quote me or pretend to quote me because it will be unclear to your listener whether the word “nobody” is a proper noun or just a convenient collective noun. Moreover, this gift which I am providing to the world is the perfect tool for keeping glib lawyers honest.

Panic-filled pragmatism is the typical result of twenty-first-century complexity. Also, the more complexities people find in the world around them the more likely they are to seek too much simplification. My mission is to give you the cover you need to truthfully say “Nobody told me” when someone challenges you. This response will be especially convenient when I, J.D. Nobody, have in fact told you something you don’t want to admit to knowing.

Now you can honestly say “Nobody told me.”

Copyright © 2016-2019 Charles E. Dial. All rights reserved.
Posted Feb 22, 2016 at 18:28. Revised Sep 24, 2019 at 19:15. –> Retrieved Oct 23, 2019 at 00:43.
Transcript News Feed: https://ct.complexitytrap.org/feed/