1) I have been sucked in by the unusual essence of the man Donald Trump. Try as I may I cannot pass up any news story, commentary or video clip involving this controversial 45th President of the United States of America.
2) While I have not always sided with him, I have long-held respect for the intelligence of Bob Rae who was elected 11 times to the federal House of Commons and the Ontario legislature between 1978 and 2013. He was NDP leader and Ontario’s 21st Premier from 1990 to 1995.
3) I have an ongoing fascination with George Orwell, the English novelist, essayist and critic, most famous for his sharp satirical fiction of the 20th century.
You can imagine then my interest in an op-ed item penned by the aforementioned Bob Rae in the January 26 edition of the Toronto Star. He contends that Orwell's insights into politics, propaganda and the uses of abuse of power have never been so apt as they are today and on reflection, I tend to concur.
"Were the possible consequences not so serious, one could enjoy a good laugh," Rae suggests while adding that the ugly face of European populism after WW2 did too much irreparable damage for anyone to just walk away from the conceits and exaggerations that dot the landscape of current U.S. presidential utterances."
The underlying premise of Donald Trump's rhetoric is that he alone understands the interests of The People, and that The People are a single unit to which he has a unique pipeline. As The Leader, he alone knows how to communicate with The People. A government which allegedly for the first time in history, has been returned to The People will be run by a cabinet dominated by millionaire businessmen and he sees nothing ironic with that, because the only humor he understands is sarcasm and character assassination.
The first press conference of Trump's new official spokesman, Sean Spicer, presented an outline of the administration's attitude to dissent or differences of opinion and in a follow-up, another spokesman/woman for the administration passed off Spicer's inflated estimate of the inaugural crowd in Washington as "alternative facts," giving rise to a new phrase "alt-facts" to match the "alt-right" catchword.
The art of propaganda that Orwell taught the world, is not just to lie, but to repeat it over and over again, so that it will enter the lexicon as arguably true. And, as he put it so aptly, there are times when simply telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.
The central experience in Orwell's life was his exposure to the Spanish Civil War. He learned that the propaganda and lies of the Stalinists could only be countered by the bitter tonic of reality. All courageous people could do in the face of the totalitarian lie was to tell the truth.
"But it is also a reality that the U.S. government leads the largest economy in the world," states Rae. "It is the one with which we (Canada) do the most trade. Since the end of the Second World War Canada has been committed to building a world base on the rule of law, not just because we're good guys, but because a rules-based trading system works for us better than one dictated solely by power."
It is clear from his speech that Trump's vision is a world system dominated by American self interest, and every president before him has completely failed to protect American jobs and values. He attacks companies that do business in other countries. He thinks that trade and investment are zero sum games.
Rae's conviction is that Canada has to do what it can to weather the storm south of the border, but it should be under no illusions. "We shouldn't worry so much if Theresa May (UK Prime Minister, known to be soft on Trump) is the first in line to make the journey to Washington...We should be more self-confident in our values and the wisdom we can bring to the table. We need to be working with other countries to see how to bring more perspective to these discussions," he adds.
In all of this, our Canadian government has to remember that rationality will not necessarily be on its side in future talks with the U.S. because the president operates under a different logic.
And remember Bob Rae's words: "The first things a bully smells are fear and uncertainty."
Over to you, young Mr. Justin Trudeau! Why not give Mr. Rae a call before your first sit-down with
The Donald...A nation is in your hands and you will need all the help you can get in the crucial days ahead!