Since Trump has been elected, many news broadcasters and talk shows regularly jab, belittle, and laugh at Trump. If this isn’t self-evident, just Youtube Trump and watch practically anything. I’m so, so sick of it. I never really enjoy this kind of thing honestly, even with people I really don’t respect. However, now everytime I hear updates on Trump, whether it’s serious or insulting, it just further fills my mind with the feeling of mental garbage. In fact, I did an illustration several years ago to try and depict this.
Now, this image is really about over-dependence on media and technology, but it is even more relevant to Trump-era media than it previously was when I painted it.
Here’s the problem: all of these news broadcasters and talk shows that ‘tear him apart’ are raking in huge of amounts of cash from all of the people who are fixated on his every move. There is a cult-like following of people laughing at the jokes these talk show hosts muster, yet these shows are benefiting in a big way from the increased traffic during this Trump era. What’s even worse is that the people that hate Trump that watch these shows, well, they’re paying for cable, which pays for these shows to air. So, in effect, the people who hate Trump are indirectly contributing to increasing the amount of overall space that Trump takes up. Even if it supposedly belittles him, it still further increases the overall ‘time spent talking about Trump’ versus ‘time spent talking about anything else’.
Is this good? I don’t think so. There’s something about it that makes it feel like every laugh puts more and more dollars towards more Trump media. Saying anything about him increases the overall planet’s “Trump” traffic, and I can’t help but think of that cliché, “any publicity is good publicity”. How true it seems now.
The worse problem: The disheartening of modern politics
If there’s any emotion that this Trump era, and now our subsequent Doug Ford era here in Ontario, have made me feel, it’s a political disheartening. I have an increasing lack of faith in politics in its ability to create positive change. It seems like the pendulum just keeps swinging around, and as much as one positive step can be made (Kathleen Wynne’s sex ed curriculum) it can be reversed just as easily with the next leader, as beautifully and clearly illustrated by Pawel Kuczynski’s artwork.
It feels like a complete waste of time for so many people to be intoxicated with the communal gaze at the village idiot. It distorts our view of humanity to marvel at how stupid or ignorant or whatever else he is (because we elected him), and we’d be better off focusing our mental energy on practically anything else. I think a population truly upset with him would simply turn the other way, and be silently disappointed in all that he represents, rather than laughing at him like he’s just another entertainer on a talk show. Perhaps even better than silence: to speak of him with deep concern and seriousness rather than as if it’s a comedic disaster or a bad circus act. If our modern politics really are just a circus act than shouldn’t we stand up in unison in outrage rather than laughter? The fate of our future unfortunately lies in some degree of leadership, so shouldn’t we be more genuinely concerned and frustrated with our leaders? Is the system so broken that the only thing left that we can do is laugh and enjoy the show?
The way forward
The above attitude is nihilistic and pessimistic, and I wish that instead we would pick up our boot straps and refocus our efforts on productive ways of changing things, such as living in a way that supports strong, well-articulated principles and values. I think that we all ought to live up to Ghandi’s often quoted, but rarely followed, words: ‘be the change you want to see in the world’. Instead of continually griping about how horrible our leaders are, we should just do everything we can with whatever relative freedom of choice that we do occupy and live intimately within a well thought out image of the world. By living in our most honest sense of being, we will radiate change, without having to say anything. I’m not saying don’t be active in politics, but rather to pick the areas of politics that you can genuinely add something to. Otherwise, you are throwing rocks at an armoured truck, or as I’ve argued in this post, perhaps plating the truck with more armour while thinking that you’re disassembling it.
When I hear how many moan and groan about how awful Trump is, I sometimes just want to shake them and say, “Stop and spend one minute thinking about what your words might be adding to the sphere of all of the words uttered daily. Your reading and spreading of the news affects your view of human nature explicitly. Nothing is written or predetermined, so instead of groveling over such micro-regressions wrapped in political melodramas, look at the macro scale of human culture and society (for this, the right books are your best friends) and try to notice the larger trends. It is far more helpful if you believe that a different, more positive view of human nature will inevitably prevail. Believing this will also make you more effective at contributing to making it happen.
It’s easy to see human nature in a time of Trump or Ford as corruptible and hopeless. Strive for difficulty, don’t accept easy. It is often easy because it fulfills a shallow image of ourselves where we don’t have to live up to any high standards, because after all, look how shitty our leaders are. Shouldn’t our leaders be our best and brightest? Since they clearly aren’t, we should all rise to the pedestal within our own lives, and let the dense hierarchical ladders of the world wither underneath our feet. This era could be the time of decentralization which is already happening in many sectors of society, to help ensure a more just and equal future. Instead, we’re sitting back, disengaged, dispassionate, and disenchanted, but content enough to laugh at the world’s newest reality TV show: Politics and Society.