Get used to the new world leadership

It’s happened again! Just when thoughtful folk believed world leadership could not become more bizarre than it is, Boris Johnson gets the nod from Britain’s Tories. To confound those who imagined that Donald Trump’s election in the land of the brave and the free could hardly be replicated on the other side of the Atlantic, along comes Boris.

I won’t bore you with a tedious analysis of the whys and wherefores of Boris’s selection, his convoluted past history, or predictions about how he will behave. Already there are articles emerging in the mainstream media that bravely attempt to do that. Instead, I invite you to take an approach promoted by Jon Faine on ABC Melbourne Radio, which in common parlance amounts to: ‘Suck it up’.

How many times have you been subject to learned assessments of what motivates Donald Trump, erudite predictions of what he might do next, and tentative analyses of what his moves really mean? Planet America on ABC TV makes a valiant attempt every week. John Barron and Chas Licciardello go into great detail about his actions and behaviour, augmented by stylish graphics and interviews with Trump watchers. But in the end are you, like me, still left wondering what is going on in Trump’s mind, what rationale propels his actions, and what plans, if any, he has for managing the challenges he faces in trade, international politics, and the many geopolitical confrontations that threaten to push the world towards the brink of war?

We ought not to be surprised. After all, before his election to the most powerful position in the world, 73 year old Donald J Trump, three times married with five children, was an entrepreneur, a bankrupt, an international property developer, the TV reality host of The Apprentice for fourteen seasons, and the owner of three beauty pageants: Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and Miss Universe, as well as being a prominent man-about-town with his finger in many pies, and a long history of questionable morals. He has never shed those traits.

Given Trump’s utter inexperience in world politics, even the most methodical attempts to predict how he would manage the demands of presidency of the US were bound to be futile. Some have tried to extrapolate from his past behaviour and actions to divine his approach to national and international politics. But has anyone you know provided a plausible elucidation? Does Trump himself know what next he’s going to do, or say, or Tweet?

Now we have Boris aka Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, aged 55, who even while he was 'the boy who wanted to be world king', insisted: “My chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive.” His background is not dissimilar from that of Trump. Married twice and now with a partner, he has four children, and a long past history of unpredictability and weird behaviour. His time as Lord Mayor of London was punctuated by bizarre actions. Like Trump, he is narcissistic, a showman, loves the limelight, and his utterances are designed to attract attention, which they do!

Is his pledge to ‘Make the UK the Greatest Nation on Earth’, meant to match, or even trump, Donald Trump’s vow to ‘Make America Great Again’? It will be an interesting contest!

Here’s a taste of the commentary you’ll read about what Trump and Johnson have in common, courtesy of Bernard Keane in the 26 July issue of Crikey. Titled Trump and Johnson: parasites from the same bowel, Keane begins:

“Johnson and Trump are the prime examples of a phenomenon of the last five years across the West: wealthy establishment figures who opportunistically attack the very system that created them, declaring themselves to be aligned with the interests of those who are victims of the system. Johnson, multi-millionaire, Eton and Balliol College, the product of a life of privilege and wealth; Trump, multi-millionaire (though he claims to be richer than that), product of the US east coast elite and inheritor of all of his wealth (of which he proved a poor custodian). But both have come to power posing as disrupters of the systems that delivered them their wealth and influence.”
Writing in Metro, Basit Mahmood reports that on Johnson’s election a prominent Muslim quit the Party on the grounds that Johnson was ‘morally unfit’ to lead. In an article in SNP: Boris Johnson: what you need to know about the new Tory PMOlaf Stando insists that he takes incompetence to a new level, is a habitual liar, is self-centred and hypocritical, and is more pro-Boris than any pro anything. Remind you of anyone?

Here are some other commentaries you may find informative: From Trump to Johnson, nationalists are on the rise – backed by billionaire oligarchs by George Monbiot; US ambassador: Trump likes Boris Johnson for 'calling it as he sees it' by Frances Perraudin; Why Bois Johnson's lies and amorality could prove his undoing by Paul Mason; I was Boris Johnson's boss; he is utterly unfit to be prime minister by Max Hastings; Boris Johnson's braggadocio will soon come back to haunt him at Number 10 by Andrew Rawnsley; and Boris Johnson Faces a Swift and Bloody Nemesis by Roger Cohen.

Is your mind dizzying already? What should we do?

Instead of trying to understand their actions, much less interpret their intent, might it be less stressful to simply watch at a distance, observe what these two 'leaders' say and do, reflect on their behaviour, occasionally cringe at their breathless derring-do, while all the time being aware that in all likelihood the world will go on despite them rather than because of them?

That might be easier on the nerves.

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The sentiment pervading this piece, described in its concluding paragraph, was mirrored in an article in the 2019 edition of Encounter, the Annual Magazine for Flinders University Alumni, penned by Tara Brabazon, AM, Professor of Cultural Studies and Dean of Graduate Research at that university.

Titled Trump, Brexit and Christchurch Terrorism – Why Education Matters, she asked: ‘How could Donald Trump be president of the United States’, and ‘Why did the majority of English voters act against their best interests and decide to leave the European Union?’

Her concluding advice is noteworthy: “Now is the moment for scholars to commit to thought leadership. To listen, reflect and dialogue. To inspire, motivate and transform. To value evidence, history, debate and interpretation. It is time. Time to read. Time to think. Time to sit in quiet reflection."

We should heed her counsel.  

lawrence winder


“Now is the moment for scholars ............... to sit in quiet reflection." Etc" .....and pass the ammunition!"

T-w-o take away o-n-e equals?