Shift to the Right

All around the world, it seems, in the so-called democratic Western societies there is an ongoing shift to the right. What does “a shift to the right” mean? What does “the right” mean in the context of modern politics?

In the past the right stood for monarchy, the status quo and conservatism, while the left stood for republicanism, revolution and change, and socialism. The right is seen forward-looking and the left is seen as backwards looking.

The robes of HRH The Duke of Clarence, a Royal...
The robes of HRH The Duke of Clarence, a Royal Duke (later William IV), included a train borne by a page. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The right has come to espouse the capitalist view of economic matters, and the concept of free markets where there is no regulation of the market and the left has come to mean stiff market controls and social ownership of some of the more important resources, such as the roads and other infrastructure, the police, and bounds on firms and corporations.

While the right tends to individualism and capitalism, the left tends to collectivism and the rights of individuals as part of a group. In the public mind the businessman is the epitome of the right while the worker represents the left.

But why are right-wing parties gaining control everywhere? The answer is of course in the rise of Islam and of ISIS and the militant Islamic movements in many countries, coupled with the floods of refugees from countries where Islamic activists are waging war against the authorities.

The refugees came not only from states where the Islam factions were looking to take over, but also from other countries, such as Ukraine, where Russia is looking to extend its interests into the country, which it lost when the old Soviet Union was dissolved. There are also trouble spots such as Israel where minorities feel threatened and are abandoning homes and heading to other countries.

Islam in Europe 1%-2% (Belarus, Croatia, Italy...
Islam in Europe 1%-2% (Belarus, Croatia, Italy, Monaco, Ukraine) 2%-4% (Andorra, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain) 4%-5% (Germany, Greece, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, United Kingdom) 5%-10% (Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden) 10%-20% (Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Montenegro, Russia) 20%-50% (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia) 50%-90% (Albania) >90% (Kosovo, Turkey) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People in Western bloc countries have seen on television news and elsewhere how these floods of refugees are causing problems because of the inabilities of countries in the path of the refugee flood to cope. At the same time they have seen on the news of the atrocities caused by radical Islamists close to home, in London, Paris, and in the USA.

This has naturally led to a rise in xenophobic distrust of those people who might be Islamic extremists and to the influx of refugees in general irrespective of their religion or beliefs. The feeling is that Islamic extremists could enter a country in guise of refugees, with intent of setting up branches of terrorist organisations.

An 1863 meeting between Māori and settlers in ...
An 1863 meeting between Māori and settlers in a pā whakairo (carved pā) in Hawke’s Bay Province. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That may be true in a very few cases but many cases the terrorist incidents have been perpetrated by people from the country that the incident occurs in, who have been “radicalised” via the Internet. While it is or may be true that the incidents are orchestrated by those outside of the country, few seem to be perpetrated by actual refugees.

Generally refugees are glad to be taken in by other countries and are also glad to fit into those countries and be accepted by the people who live in those countries. Most are appalled by the violence done in the name of their religion and don’t believe that their religion actually requires believers to do these things.

Old woman wearing hijab
Old woman wearing hijab (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Refugees are usually happy to fit into a country which allows them to practise their religion quietly and privately. Most Christians would say the same, regardless of which denomination they belong to. If you espouse a religion aggressively, then this would cause issue with your neighbours and merely repeats the problems of your original country.

Since I do not believe in religion, but do not object to people who practise one, I see no problem, provided the believer doesn’t try to force his/her religion on me. I will happily take part in a marriage or naming ceremony in any religion, and not just in the Christianity which I was nominally raised in.

English: An Igbuzo child naming ceremony in Wa...
English: An Igbuzo child naming ceremony in Washington DC, USA. Parents of the child confer with the Diokpa (Head of he family) on the names of the child (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The seeming daily “terrorist” acts have scared people. They now look askance at anyone who worships differently from them, and who dresses differently. This has led to many refugees who do not espouse the local religion or customs, adapting, so that they don’t stand out from the locals.

There is a constant dialectic between the religion and customs of their homelands and the new country to which they have moved. The refugees do not want to lose their culture, which they see as a rich heritage, which it is, yet they want to conform and fit in to their new country.

English: South Croydon bus garage on 1 April 1...
English: South Croydon bus garage on 1 April 1985. A newly-delivered ‘M’ class bus stands outside, awaiting the fitting of its destination blinds. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many people in countries to which refugees move see refugees as different. They don’t understand the customs, they don’t understand the religion and they don’t understand why the refugees are not exactly like them. They are worried that the refugees may be terrorists in disguise, but rationally, a terrorist is more likely to adopt local customs and dress, so that he/she doesn’t stand out as different.

This difference engenders fear, and I’ve seen this before. In the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s many West Indians came to Britain, changing the face of the country. Many British people had not seen anyone with a dark skin before, and this shocked and in some cases horrified people. Uneasy jokes were made as how the West Indians were taking over the busses, as drivers and conductors. The tension led inevitably to the rise of the National Front party.

Thankfully the British people eventually accepted the West Indians into the country, and while there were a few incidents over the years, the British people have tolerated incomers pretty well overall.

Nevertheless, in many countries, especially those on the route of the fleeing refugees, there has been a resurgence in the nationalist movements, which laughably indirectly led to the right wing United Kingdom Independence Party congratulating itself for being annihilated by the Tories in the UK local elections. It also led to a right wing candidate reaching the run-off election for the post of the French president.

It also almost certainly led to Trump’s election as president of the United State. His promise to make America great again resonated with those who saw their jobs sliding into an abyss as a seeming flood of strangers entered the country. In the US case of course the unwanted immigrants came mostly from Mexico.

While the United States has its problems, I doubt that Trump can solve them by banning and deporting all the illegal immigrants in the country, which would remove many hard working and useful people, and declaring that the mining industry would be revived and that people would get their jobs back.

Graffiti-art in Venice, Italy. I think (basing...
Graffiti-art in Venice, Italy. I think (basing myself on the inscription “Stop deportation” and the rainbow chador) belongs to the wordlwide protests against the United Kingdom deporting an Iranian lesbian to her country, which punishes homosexuality by law. Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, 16 August 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This goes against all economic common sense as the solid fuel mining industry is in decline in most parts of the world, and any gains will be short term and will rapidly fade away, leaving the miners in a worse position than before. It’s hard to see how any of Trump’s actions and reforms will turn the country around.

Miners work in a mine with a low roof
Miners work in a mine with a low roof (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

About Mums, and a little about Dads too.

Mother hen with chicks02
Mother hen with chicks02 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wrote about cuteness a couple of posts ago, and this started me thinking about mothers, both human and animals and how the bonds that they form with their offspring.

Many animals do not look after their offspring, just casting their fertilised eggs into the seas like many fish or placing their eggs on a food plant as butterflies and moths mostly do. However, many animals do look after their eggs and young offspring, often for extended periods of time.

Danaus Plexippus, Monarch Butterly, picture ta...
Danaus Plexippus, Monarch Butterly, picture taken in NewYork, October 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is common for the mother of an animal to look after it rather than the father, but it is not uncommon for the father to look after the offspring, and more commonly both parents will look after their progeny.

For example, the egg laid by most species of Kiwi is incubated by the male member of a pair of birds. Also, in the Seahorse, the female deposits her eggs inside the male’s “brood pouch” and the young of the Seahorse develop there.

Once young animals are born, often the female parent will take care of them for some time after they are born, but this is not a definite rule. Sometimes the male parent is around and provides some support and protection, and even if the male parent is around, he may remain fairly distant, with the female doing most of the caring for the young animals.

A common sight is a mother hen closely followed by her chicks, with the aloof cockerel strutting around the farmyard. In a pride of lions, the nucleus of the pride consists of the females and offspring while the associated males remain close.

English: Four Lionesses take down a bull cape ...
English: Four Lionesses take down a bull cape buffalo in the central Serengeti (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In humans, the so called “nuclear family” is common, at least in Western cultures. A nuclear family usually consists of a couple and their children living in a single house, and is a relatively recent phenomenon, with extended families being common in many cultures, including Western cultures, until fairly recently.

In such a nuclear family, the father goes out to earn money for the family every day, leaving the children in the care of the mother for the day. Such role separation and assignment could be seen as “natural” and “obvious”. This can be problematic when the couple are not male and female, when role assignment is trickier.

Guarani nuclear family of Mato Grosso do Sul, ...
Guarani nuclear family of Mato Grosso do Sul, Brasil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is likely that there is an instinctive drive for a mother to care for her children and for the father to be assigned the role of provider for the family. Certainly this tendency for children to be cared for by the mother and for the father to fill another role can be seen in most societies, even those without the concept of the nuclear family.

In a family consisting of a couple of same sex parents, this role division is not well defined and indeed such couples may decide to share both provider and carer roles within the family group, which could speculatively lead to kids who are unclear about the distinction between the carer and provider roles.


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Kids are resilient though, and being more willing to share the roles when they grow up and form their own, probably heterosexual, relationships and families may even be an advantage. That’s not to say that the father in a heterosexual couple whose parents are also a heterosexual couple are not capable of caring! The roles in Western societies are not so strictly defined that a father cannot be a carer for some of the time, and that a mother cannot be a provider.

Regardless of such quibbles, mothers tend to be more caring and nurturing than fathers in Western societies. Both boys and girls tend to go first to Mum when a knee is scraped or an elbow bashed, and they go to Dad for the resolution of disputes, such as when a sibling has stolen a favourite toy and won’t return it.

This is probably because the mother has more invested in the children than the father. She has carried the child for nine months, culminating in a painful delivery, while the father has watched on and the only pain that he has suffered was when his spouse squeezed his hand too hard during a contraction and left nail marks in it. Of course, I am drastically under valuing the support that the mother has received from her spouse.


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Mother have a close bond with their children, and we can see it in modern society, where a couple is not always “till death do us part”. When a couple splits the children more often seem to go with the mother, although there are blended families where some of the kids are the father’s and some are the mother’s.

Mothers can be particularly close to their daughters, but they are even close to their sons. No other person has changed your nappy (diaper), clothed you, nursed you through minor ailments, and fed you from the moment of birth until you leave home. Step daughters and sons can sometimes have difficulty getting as close to step mothers, and this can cause issues.


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Poor old Dad. He gets the affection, the love, but usually not to the same depth as the children love their mother. Actually, I think that the bonds that form between a man and his kids are just as deep as mother love, but they are manifested in different ways. Dad is the one that the kids look to for protection much of the time, Dads tend to be the ones who encourage the kids to stand on their own feet.

The difference is that Dads are in general more able to form relationships at a distance. He may mainly see his kids in the evenings and at weekend. Modern life has pretty much forced a hands off approach to parenting for Dads. When a split up comes it is frequently easier for a father to move away from his children, painful though it may be than for a mother to move away from them.


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Breaking up a family is always difficult, but with nuclear families it is more difficult. In an extended family there are always granddads. grandmas, cousins and aunties and uncles to take up the slack. The modern child doesn’t have quite so much support. It’s a wonder that, in general, they still turn out OK.

English: This is the photograph of an extended...
English: This is the photograph of an extended family belonging to the Pais-Prabhu, a Mangalorean Catholic clan hailing from Falnir in Mangalore. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trumpery

Donald Trump enters the Oscar De LA Renta Fash...
Donald Trump enters the Oscar De LA Renta Fashion Show, New York. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, as politics goes that was great theatre. Trump won when no one thought that he had a chance of even getting the nomination for the Republican Party. Trump as president is highly scary, not only for the US, but for the whole world.

Given that Trump is the man that he is, why on earth did anyone vote for him, let alone around half the people who voted? People have been puzzling the answer to this one ever since the election, and while it is clear from the statistics that there was a big swing to Trump by white non-college male voters – blue collar America.

Blue Collar Radio
Blue Collar Radio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It would easy to attribute this swing to gullibility and malleability of the non-college voters male voters. It would be easy to suggest that Trump’s evident charisma appealed to this sector of the electorate, but there must be more to it than that. Much more.

Notably the statistics seem to show that no other group of people fell for the Trump’s braggadocio like the white male non-college voters. Of course he turned off female voters to some extent by his behaviour and attitude towards women, but really, there was no huge backlash in that respect.


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It seems that Trump’s call to “Make America Great Again” (trademarked by him in 2012) resonated with many Americans in this election, but it is not the first time it has been used. Several previous presidential candidates have used it. It implies that things were better in the past, but in general, that view is illusory, and one sees the past through rose-tinted spectacles.

“How many people long for that “past, simpler, and better world,” I wonder, without ever recognizing the truth that perhaps it was they who were simpler and better, and not the world about them?”
R.A. Salvatore, Streams of Silver

Another button that Trump pressed for many people, not the white, male, non-college voters alone was the race button. Technically one should not be called racist if what one says is the truth. Trump in many peoples’ opinions went a long way past that point.

English: A racist drawing of blacks in the 189...
English: A racist drawing of blacks in the 1890s, made by whites. The caption says “Last one in’s a nigger.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While labelling Mexicans as all being drug dealers and rapist, he definitely went well past the point of propriety, but it appears that many people believe that there is a grain of truth there. In an American post-911 many people are wary of all immigrants, especially those from the Middle East. Again many people resonate with this.

Trump’s stated policies are ridiculous. Building a wall between Mexico and the US and making the Mexicans pay for it is silly, though I note that there are fences along much of the border already. A wall can be climbed over, tunnelled under, flown over or merely circumvented. All known walls of this type, Hadrian’s Wall, the Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, have all failed.

English: Hadrian's wall just east of Greenhead...
English: Hadrian’s wall just east of Greenhead Lough, Northumberland in October 2005. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trump threatens to catch and extradite all illegal immigrants in the US. Not only would this be fabulously expensive, it would cause immense upheavals and distress to many in the US, especially those families are mixed with legal and illegal immigrants. Apart from that the economy of California would collapse as many of the lower paid workers are illegal immigrants.

The threat to extradite all Muslims is not only silly, it is probably not legally possible. Many Muslims have been in the country legally for generations. A Muslim grandfather who came to America to escape conflict and even religious persecution in his homeland may face extradition merely because his sons or grandsons may at some time in the future become radicalised.

English: Turkmen Moslem Mullah, Nohur village,...
English: Turkmen Moslem Mullah, Nohur village, Turkmenistan, 21 April 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trump’s policies may be ridiculous, they may be very expensive, but above all they may be impossible to carry out. Trump cannot write the laws himself, and there are some things that it may be legally impossible to do, and there may arguably be things that are constitutionally impossible to carry out. Trump’s policies may fail when confronted with political reality.

Trump appears to be passing off at least some of his powers to his Vice-President Michael Pence. This makes sense because Trump is a political novice and Pence has years of experience. At best this could make Trump look weak, and at worst, it could turn him into a puppet. As it is it seems that Trump is softening his stance on the issues that have assisted him to the Presidency.

Official portrait of Congressman (R-IN)
Official portrait of Congressman (R-IN) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This raises the question of what happens at the next election in 2020? If the Republicans don’t make any progress in addressing the issues that the white male non college voters have, if they don’t produce jobs, if people don’t see any progress in handling the illegal immigrant issue or the issues around Muslims in the US, it is hard to see him or the Republicans retaining the presidency and their ascendancy in the Senate and the House.

Trump could be a great president or middling president or useless president. While it is hard to read the future, going by his character, his lack of political abilities, the possibility that he will have roadblock after roadblock placed in front of him, and the almost impossible task of “Making America Great Again”, and the need to retain the loyalty of white, male, non college voters, I’m going to predict that he will most likely achieve very little, and will not get a second term.

US Navy 040611-N-9319H-054 USS Ronald Reagan (...
US Navy 040611-N-9319H-054 USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Sailors salute the American flag during the memorial service for President Ronald Reagan on the flight deck aboard his namesake aircraft carrier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the mean time, while he is trying to actually achieve some of his goals, the Democratic Party has time to reflect, make changes especially to the party hierarchy and structure, and to win the loyalty of the voters. In particular they can reflect on what went wrong.

Would Bernie Saunders have done any better than Hillary Clinton? It is unlikely. The fact that Trump got selected for the race shows that voters wanted change and Saunders would most likely have provided a softer target for Trump.

Should the Democrats select Saunders for President next time? Well, he is 75 now and will be 79 by the time of the next election, and that is ten years older than Ronald Reagan was when he became President. Incidentally Trump will become the oldest President to be elected when he is inaugurated.

I see some people are calling for Michelle Obama to stand in 2020. This doesn’t address any of the issues that this election has raised, so she would probably fail. In any case, she wisely says that she would not stand.

First Lady Michelle Obama visits with Former F...
First Lady Michelle Obama visits with Former First Lady Nancy Reagan at the White House on June 3, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)