Letters from The United Kingdom
I looked out this morning when I got up and it was all dark and “Vladivostok cold” – as it is before the dawn at this time of year, and then the most magical colours appeared – opposed to grey skies, the sun rise brought neon blues with hues of bright and clear effervescent orangey-purpley-reds highlighting the small amount of cloud and “zoom-pasts” – (contrails to normal people) - it was one of those really “wow” magnificently inspiring sights. It is still a beautiful world! And then I suddenly thought, “How depressing” – Trump - your new about-to-be president of the USA and the likes of our own daily politics populated with characters like Farage and many other self-important, dogmatic (I normally like everything to do with dogs)and divisive human beings who for some unexplainable reason we have elected to power – to be our leaders. Democracy is not perfection but the best of what’s on offer right now. Perhaps we really do get what we deserve?
But returning to reality – the most powerful man in the world from Friday is, disappointingly, still behaving as if he is a spoilt child – not just inarticulate by world leader standards, but clearly, he is not a good listener. This is worrying – more than anything, leadership is about temperament, listening, example – knowing when to listen, to be balanced or to be decisive. Whenever I listen to Mr Trump, I am reminded of a small child that has a very small vocabulary and is overly spoilt and thus prone to throwing tantrums if he is not getting his own way – actually, not too dissimilar to how I think of Kim Jong-un. Now Trump is about to inherit the mantle of “World Leader” and we will, with baited breath, wait and see, and hopefully we will all be pleasantly surprised, though I am not holding my breath. Also, it is still unclear how he can serve as President and meanwhile have his sons running his empire with no hint of a blind trust (in sight). This being the case, it is difficult to accept he will be impartial. So, on current performance I am sceptical of him getting to serve his full term and I believe there is every likelihood of him being impeached. I only hope he is not assassinated before then. He is a divisive man and has said some extremely antagonistic things and no doubt upset an awful lot of people – hopefully those people are more intelligent, at least emotionally, than he is - but if he was assassinated it would not only be dreadful for all his loved ones, it would also be terrible for the United States of America. It would send a very negative message out to the world, and right now, more than ever, the world needs a conciliatory and strong United States of America.
And then I read the news that President Obama had commuted Chelsea Manning’s sentence – There is a god – reconfirmed again! I have no particular love for Ms Manning, save whether there is a god or not - anyone with an ounce of humanity knows that this young mixed-up ex-corporal did not deserve to spend the rest of her life in an all male military prison. It would serve no purpose whatsoever, except to serve the cold-blooded revenge of a “State” whom she had globally embarrassed. Of course what the then Corporal Manning did was wrong and could and cannot be condoned in any way – and an example had to be made. But that has all happened – justice has seen to be done - time to move on - a huge mistake made by Chelsea Manning and yet, President Obama has gifted her with a second chance. Perhaps she and the USA will benefit because of that?
Personally I believe in freedom wherever possible and I belief in second chances because I am a human being and certainly no saint myself – It is human to err. I hope Ms Manning has learned some valuable lessons and those more un-forgiving people in the USA will also learn a lesson here. Love him or loath Him, President Obama has again shown, not just leadership, but statesmanship. That is not pandering to what is popular but doing what is right. Not just for Ms Manning, but for a nation, A Great Nation. Surely a great nation is judged not by its wealth or size or even its military power alone, but by its kind-heartedness and its ability for compassion. This simple act is communicating to the world the civilisation of the USA, because what is civilisation if it is not communication. By this single act, President Obama communicated the United States leadership by example to the world at large.
As for the everyday politicking – Mrs May, here in the United Kingdom, has made some of her views known re Britain exiting the EU and overall that must be a good thing. It has removed some of the uncertainty, only some - so now we in Britain can at least move on a bit. Little steps forward. Hopefully some of the hurt we have inadvertently inflicted on our European neighbours will begin to dissipate and more practical and fair-minded conversations will begin on how we divide the bit we are separating from and importantly, how we further cement the ties we all want to keep. Not unlike a civilised divorce, if there is such a thing and we agree visiting rights etc. Thinking of others in such negotiations seems to me elementary to success, it is important to walk in the opposing shoes. Hopefully these negotiations can happen without vindictiveness and in a spirit of acceptance and positivity. But politicians (as well as presidents) should be aware of words – their rhetoric, and the effect it can have on the lives of ordinary people.
Rather than inflaming and antagonising words (which seem to make little egos feel big) lets go for an attitude of calming and motivational – inspirational; words that move people to express and act from the higher part of themselves. Words that seek to mend fences, not build walls. Words that aim to heal injuries not cause wounds. Words that inspire people to reach for heights they are unsure they can achieve rather than take refuge in the safety of certainty. We perhaps need more words of love, kindness and encouragement, strengthening the positive rather than the negative.
When Pericles and Phidias and others built the Parthenon two and a half thousand years ago – it was about sending a message – communicating - not just to the goddess Athena but to all who saw that magnificent building or even those who had just heard of it. The Parthenon shouted as loud as anything “The Greek Civilisation”. We should all understand that when we communicate, we are in fact communicating our own civilisation, our individual or our collective civilisation. We should, all of us, perhaps be more aware of what we are trying to say, how we convey our message and what will the effect be on others and perhaps more importantly, learn to listen intently.
N.B. Boris Jonson, British political class and President elect Trump.