Worse, his lies eroded trust in democracy and the rule of law, at home and abroad. Yet even as, properly and electorally vanquished, he slowly departs, he continues to antagonise and divide – and to be lionised by the right.
Maybe it’s not that hard to see why. Trump’s personal brand of viciousness appealed to every worst human instinct, justified every vile prejudice, excused every mean and unkind thought. His is a blind ignorance that resonates with those who will not or cannot see. Falsehood is always easier than truth. For these reasons, Trump’s global legacy is Trumpism. It will live on – toxic, immoral, ubiquitous and ever-threatening.
Tisdall has long been a reliable foreign affairs journalist. For those who follow world affairs, his summary and pinpointing of the features of Trump’s legacy offer no surprises; but they do offer effective reflection in their eloquence and, in their turn toward moral philosophy in his article’s final paragraphs. Morality Tisdall implies, or as I prefer, ethics, is inherent to politics, though in a negative capacity. Politics is the willful abandonment of ethics in the guise of a pragmatism that assumes truth, beauty, and virtue are merely the idealistic fantasies of the ‘politically’ naive. Politics is the superior art because it requires tactics and strategy to navigate power in the ‘real world’, in a social Darwinist, economic ecology. Morality and ethics, are politically useful only for the absolution of the wrongs committed in the pragmatic business of ‘doing political good,’ an always already compromised attempt at compromise between good and bad. They are the pragmatist’s Catholic confessional or Protestant sin-countering good deeds, mostly on Sunday and Saturday, to, despite daily failures in virtue, gain guiltless or pre-exonerated entrance to Heaven.
In this analysis, kindness, is the province of the fool. Yet, kindness is one of the most complicated of all human acts. Kindness is by definition, a social act; it’s someone’s affection toward another. It’s altruistic, unlike other modes of behavior like greed, which is only egoistic. Acts of great kindness, we must acknowledge, are not necessarily pure acts of goodness; they are often accompanied, simultaneously, by acts of great violence. Kindness can be, therefore, highly and even necessarily, partisan. I offer to help you find your lost daughter, say, with great effort and great risk and with no obvious benefit to myself. I offer my kindness to you out of no obligation to you, or benefit to myself; but, simply because I have affection for you, and i have abilities you don’t. To save your daughter necessitates, let us imagine, physical violence, perhaps even killing, to get her back; and you are not capable of such violence, but because I am, you accept my kindness, reluctantly perhaps, but still willingly. Kindness by definition is then, a dual and reciprocal act of freedom – I ‘choose’ an action with no obvious benefit to myself, but, to be social, must benefit someone else. But, you, that someone else, must freely accept my kindness, and be complicit in it, in whatever it takes to fulfill the act of being kind, in this example, to get your daughter back from those who design to harm her, even though it might require violence.
Of course, a sociobiologist, or a cognitive behaviorist or psychologist, or even and especially a traditional Freudian or Lacanian psychoanalyst, would insist that every act of kindness, as a species of altruism, is a latent form of egoism and self-interest or self-preservation. But each of these ‘soft sciences’ is particularly susceptible to the pre-cultural-conditions of morality/ethics/religion. IF, we assume, and I think we must, that morality/ethics inevitably and always underpin these soft sciences, then we are under no obligation to agree that all moral/ethical acts are inherently selfish, like a Dawkins gene; because the arguments of psychoanalysis are circular, yielding up only the answers they were pre-conditioned or pre-situated or pre-oriented – in other words, designed – to yield. Such forms of analysis are self-fulfilling prophesies – all resistances to them are forms of self-denial so there is no escape from their contrived, ethically preconceived, structures. Such methods inevitably fail because they assume an impossible subject – a unitary, isolated, a-social being.
Kindness, then, just might, has the potential, to be a practice of freedom. And perhaps the type of freedom it best represents, is a freedom from ones own self, that as a purely social act, allows another person or persons, to achieve a form of freedom.
Kindness is a form of gift. But a gift can only be a gift if it’s accepted.
It’s a form of gift because it’s uncaused, AND, unexpected. And it’s the fact that it’s uncaused, and unexpected, that makes it a free act. There is no free act independent of a social context that involves at least 2 subjects, or agents. Freedom cannot be individualized. No ‘I’, can attain freedom without the collaboration of another ‘I’.