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)

Rational versus real

English: Dyadic rational numbers in the interv...
English: Dyadic rational numbers in the interval [0,1] (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
(My last post was very late because I had taken part in a 10km walk on the Sunday and spent the week recovering.)

There’s a fundamental dichotomy at the heart of our Universe which I believe throws some light on why we see it the way we do. It’s the dichotomy between the discrete and the continuous.

A rock is single distinct thing, but if you look closely, it appears to be made of a smooth continuous material. We know of course that it is not really continuous but is constructed of a mesh of atoms each of which is so small that we cannot distinguish them individually, and which are connected to each other with strong chemical and physical bods.

An early, outdated representation of an atom, ...
An early, outdated representation of an atom, with nucleus and electrons described as well-localized particles on well-localized orbits. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If we restrict ourselves to the usual chemical and physical processes we can determine to a large extent determine what the atoms are which comprise the rock, and we can make a fair stab at how they are connected and in what proportions.

We can explain its colour and its weight, strength, and maybe its magnetic properties, even its value to us. (“It’s just a rock!” or “It’s a gold nugget!”) We have a grab bag of atoms and their properties, which come together to form the rock.

English: Gold :: Locality: Alaska, USA (Locali...
English: Gold :: Locality: Alaska, USA (Locality at mindat.org) :: A hefty 63.8-gram gold nugget, shaped like a pancake. Very beautiful and classic locality nugget. 4.5 x 3 x 0.6 cm Deutsch: Gold :: Fundort: Alaska, Vereinigte Staaten (Fundort bei mindat.org) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first view of atoms was that they were indivisible chunks with various geometric shapes. This view quickly gave way to a picture of atoms as being small balls, like very tiny billiard balls. Then the idea of the billiard balls was replaced by the concept of the atom as a very tiny solid nucleus surrounded by a cloud of even tinier electrons.

Of course the nucleus turned out not to be solid, but to be composed of neutrons and protons, and even they have been shown to be made up of smaller particles. Is this the end of the story? Are these smaller particles fundamental, or are they made up of even smaller particles and so on, “ad infinitum”?

English: "Ad Infinitum" Oil in Canva...
English: “Ad Infinitum” Oil in Canvas 109 x 152.5 by peruvian painter Ricardo Córdova Farfán (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It appears that in Quantum Physics that we have at least reached a plateau, if not the bottom of this series of even smaller things. As we descend from the classical rock, through the smaller but still classical atoms, to the very, very small “fundamental” particles, things start to get blurry.

The electron, probably the hardest particle that we know of, in the sense that it is not known to be made up of smaller particles, behaves some of the time as if it was a wave, and sometimes appear more particle like. The double slit experiment shows this facet of its properties.

Diagram of the double-slit experiment
Diagram of the double-slit experiment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The electron is not unique in this respect, and in fact the original experiments were performed with photons, and scientists have performed the experiment even with small molecules, showing that everything has some wave aspects, though the effect can be very small, and is for all normal purposes unnoticeable.

A wave as we normally see it is an apparently continuous thing. As we watch waves rolling in to the beach we don’t generally consider it to consist of a bunch of atoms moving up and down in a loosely connected way that we call “liquid”. We see a wave as distributed over a breadth of ocean and changing in a fairly regular way over time.

Wineglass with blue liquid
Wineglass with blue liquid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the quantum level particles are similarly seen to be distributed over space and not located at a particular point. An electron has wave like properties and it has particle like properties. Interestingly the sea wave also has particle like properties which can be calculated. Both the sea wave and the electron behave like bundles of energy.

You can’t really say that a wave is at this point or that point. A water may be at both, albeit with different values of height. If the wave is measured at a number of locations, then by extension it has a height in between locations. This is true even if there is no molecule of water at that point.  The height is in fact the likely height of a molecule if it were to be found at that location.

English: A particle motion in an ocean wave. A...
English: A particle motion in an ocean wave. A=At deep water. B=At shallow water. The elliptical movement of a surface particle flattens with increasing depth 1=Progression of wave 2=Crest 3=Trough (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By analogy, and by the double slit experiment, it appears that the smallest of particles that we know about have wave properties and these wave properties smear out the location of the particle. It appears that fundamental particles are not particularly localised.

It appears from the above that at the quantum level we move from the discrete view of particles as being individual little “atoms” to a view where the particle is a continuous wave. It points to physics being fundamentally continuous and not discrete.

The Continuum
The Continuum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a mathematical argument that argues against this however. Some things seem to be countable. We have two feet and four limbs. We have a certain discrete number of electrons around the nucleus of an atom. We also have a certain number of quarks making up a hadron particle.

Other things don’t appear to be countable, such as the positions a thrown stone can traverse. Such things are measured in terms of real numbers, though any value assigned to the stone at a particular instance in time is only an approximation and is in fact a rational number only.

Stonehenge sulis
Stonehenge sulis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At first sight it would appear that all we need to do is measure more accurately, but all that does is move the measurement (a rational number) closer to the actual value (a real number). The rational gets closer and closer to the real, but never reaches it. We can keep increasing the accuracy of our measurement, but that just gives us a better approximation.

It can be seen that the set of rational numbers (or the natural numbers, equivalently) maps to an infinite subset of the real numbers. It is usually stated that the set of real numbers contains the rational numbers. I feel that they should be kept apart though as they refer to different domains of numbers – rational numbers are in the domain of the discrete, while the real numbers are in the domain of the continuous.

Particles by fundamental interactions
Particles by fundamental interactions (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)

Politicians


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(Photographs of politicians below are not intended to imply that the pictured politician is any way corrupt or discredited. Even Trump.)

Donald Trump appears to be on the verge of being named the Republican candidate for President of the United States. While it is unlikely that he will become president, his rise has been amazing, and his appeal surprises many, in the USA and elsewhere.

He has made some astounding promises but it is unlikely that people really believe that he is going to be able to achieve them. However, as a many shared post on Facebook has it, people are really looking more at the direction he is promising to move the country.

English: Donald Trump's signature hairstyle
English: Donald Trump’s signature hairstyle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trump is not a politician in the usual way. A politician would normally take great care not to upset people, not to rock the boat as it were. Politicians almost always try not to promise anything, as they might not be able to deliver what they promise and that will harm their re-election chances.

All human interactions involve politics to some extent. When a group of people forms, be it a family or a tribe or a nation and selects one of their number to represent them in an interaction with another group of people, that’s politics.


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Human nature being what it is, the representative feels empowered by this responsibility, and often becomes arrogant and domineering. This may or may not result in the representative being replaced by someone else.

However there are advantages in having someone as figurehead in interaction with other groups. The elevation of someone to be the group’s representative can become permanent, with the representative becoming the chief, the king, the emperor. Or even the President of the United States.

The figurehead and prow of the SS Great Britain.
The figurehead and prow of the SS Great Britain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Politicians in general do not have a high reputation. Mark Twain once said “Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason”. The implication is that while politicians may start off idealistic, they may often come to become arrogant and believe that they are better in some way than the people who gave them the power.

Lord Acton’s dictum often appears to be true of politicians. The more power that they have, the more they consider themselves to be more important than the average man in the street. They may come to believe that they are above the law, and eventually fall foul of it. While power does not directly corrupt, the feeling of importance and the ability to wield power sometimes does.


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Politicians do recognise this fact and, if they are sensible, try to  avoid this trap. They try to remain “grounded”. They talk about getting back to the roots, keeping in touch and other such phrases, but it is very hard to do this as when they try to interact with those who put them in power, those people treat them as special, and tend to address the role and not the person.

Politicians are overthrown all the time. It may be that they no longer serve the people who selected them, or it may be that they have become arrogant and have been caught doing something illegal or dubious.


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Often these peccadilloes are things that would not get a normal person into too much trouble. An insulting email, maybe, or perhaps an affair with a person that the politician works with. Or getting someone to paint the roof, when the politician is in a position to help the painter.

Sometimes, though, the politician takes advantage of their position in ways which are very wrong. Sometimes they accept money to advance someone’s business, or they may divert money to their own bank accounts, when it should be spent to further the aims for which they were selected. They might take holidays overseas or travel to conferences for which their seems little justification.


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It’s no wonder then, that people look on politicians with distrust. They are aware of all the temptations that beset politicians and they are aware that such temptations are hard to resist and that some politicians may be corruptible.

That’s why we surround our politicians with laws and rules above and beyond those that apply to the man in the street. We want our politicians to be above reproach, but we know that they are fallible.


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But we do not hold them to their promises, which is why Trump can get away with promising that he would build a wall between the United States and Mexico, if he gets elected, when everyone knows that such a wall is very unlikely to be built. Even if it is, illegal immigrants from Mexico to the United States will find ways around it. Or under it. There are already tunnels under the border between the two countries.

The electors in the United States know that Trump’s promises are hogwash, but they like the way that he promises something towards dealing with the problem of illegal immigration. It shows that he is thinking about it, and may well do something.

English: American politician Hubert Work.
English: American politician Hubert Work. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The same goes for Trump’s promise to prevent Muslims entering the United States for a period. It will never happen, and if it did, it would not be effective, as many potential IS terrorists are already in the country, and such a move would likely persuade them to actively attack the United States from within.

But Trump promises something to deal with the entry of terrorists into the country. Once again, while he probably will not do anything like this, people hope that he will do something.


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However, the big thing that Trump has going for him is that he is not a politician, in the sense that he has not had a career in politics, he has not worked his way up in politics. No, Trump has started at the top. Trump is a businessman. If he does get elected he will probably find that his business skills don’t really equip him for a life in politics, and persuading people to go along with his schemes will make herding cats look easy.

After all, in the business world Trump may be able to hire and fire as he wishes, but in government, the other elected representatives cannot be fired and he will need their cooperation. Trump’s (apparent) bullying tactics will not work in government. In some ways it would be interesting to see if he could achieve anything if he were the POTUS.

Plaque of the Seal of the President of the Uni...
Plaque of the Seal of the President of the United States on the southeast side of Hoover Tower on the campus in Stanford, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)