Donald Trump’s handling of CV19 is a bit of an enigma. Not just the specific policies of his Administration, but rather the lack of ‘ownership’ he has exhibited. So I thought I’d have a conversation with one of the characters in my ‘Ur Legend’ to get his perspective. Jumong had been the Chairman of the Party in North Korea, so he had some familiarity with authoritarianism. We met on the fantastic planet of Luna, where he lives now with Tiamat, the Creatrix, and Queen of Hades.
Ajax: Jumong! I made it over.
Jumong: How was the ‘crossing’.
Ajax: A bit disorienting. I felt as if I were upside down and inside out at the same time.
Jumong: Yup. It’ll do that to you. On my first trip to Luna I got a bit queazy. But you made it!
Ajax: I never thought I’d get to see Luna.
Jumong: Well you did a pretty good job of describing a place you’d never seen.
Ajax: ‘Jaq’, or whoever’s notebooks I used, was pretty thorough and detailed.
I stretched then looked about. Before me was an expanse of shining silver water.
Ajax: I’m guessing this was the where the Battle on the Ice with Bildad Proud took place?
Jumong: Yes. Though it rarely freezes over now. Climate change.
Jumong’s lips lifted in a wry smile.
Ajax: Tell me about it! We haven’t experienced the ‘deep freeze’ on my worldline. Planet is still either burning down or flooding.
Jumong: The change here was quite remarkable. The atmosphere reached a ‘tipping point’, I believe it’s called. Enough decades of the Old Spallers exhaling carbon dioxide and their Lamikins ‘offgassing’ methane created just enough of a Greenhouse Effect to trap the moisture necessary to germinate one of the small seeds that fell off of your Jaq’s clothing. Which ate the carbon and the building of this atmosphere began.
Ajax: Happened pretty quickly I’d say.
Jumong: Well, Mattie gave it a nudge. She can do things like that.
Ajax: So I guessed. Anyway, it’s lovely. But I didn’t ask to come over to talk about climate.
Jumong: What’s on your mind?
Ajax: Oh, political philosophy. And practice. I know you and Mattie discussed it when you hiked in the Myohang in your North Korea.
Jumong: We talked about may things. What interests you?
Ajax: Well you contrasted the Western emphasis on individualism with the more collective cultural ethos of the East. In America we probably have the most individualistic view of government among the democracies.
Jumong: You emphasize Rights. But you know, regard for others, while seemingly a collective viewpoint, actually is deeply conservative. The responsibility for respecting and enforcing norms rests very much with the individual. And the more responsibility the individual accepts for their own behavior, the fewer laws and regulations are necessary to control harmful actions.
Ajax: Boy, do we ever have a system of laws! Volumes and volumes. But our system stands firmly grounded, stuck maybe, on protecting individual rights…
Jumong: Which unsurprisingly can come into conflict.
Ajax: Exactly. Which is why we are suffering so now___
Jumong: From the virus.
Ajax: Sounds as if you have been kept up to date.
Jumong: Mattie sees to it. And as you know she can project her thoughts.
Ajax: Lucky for you.
Ajax: Or maybe not so lucky.
Jumong: So much suffering and so much destruction now on your worldline. Where does the politics come in specifically?
Ajax: Well leadership counts in times of crisis. But who leads best? The autocrat or the democrat?
Jumong: A firm hand is needed in times like yours. But a benign one.
Ajax: Like your Mattie? I think you once called her an autocrat at heart.
Jumong: She is. But she is working fiercely at being not Hobbes’ Leviathan but one of Plato’s Philosopher Kings. Or Queens. Either way she rules with a firm hand.
Ajax: Which leads me to my issue. We have been confronting a challenge and failing pretty badly.
Jumong: I know. I’ve met many in Hades who lost the battle against your CV19. So what is the dilemna?
Ajax: I’m not trying to resolve anything here, but I am puzzled. Our President___
Jumong: Mr Trump. THE Donald.
Ajax: Yup. He has exhibited a subtle preference for, even admiration of autocrats. On a visit to China with Xi, after the Chairman had essentially become dictator for life, rather than defend our system he suggested, almost longingly, that he thought he would like to be President for life.
Ajax: So here’s the paradox. The Virus gave him the opportunity to become exactly what he seemed to crave. The opportunity to take control. At least as much as our system would allow. He could have ordered industry to produce the goods and materials that were needed for safety. He could have given the scientific community firm directives, and the discretion, to set protocols that might have saved thousands. He could have required, to the extent enforceable, certain basic requirements for social interaction.
Jumong: Masks and social distancing__
Ajax: You’ve got the idea. But the strange thing is that he didn’t take the opportunity to become the dictator, I guess you’d say, he craved. Instead he told people to go on about their established daily routines.What’s up with that?
Jumong: Well, one of the mistakes we make in life is trying to be what we want rather than what we are good at. I’m not sure at all what he is good at…
Ajax: He is a brilliant salesman.
Jumong: There you have it. He could have ‘sold’ the best ideas to everyone. By relying on organization, science and his almost cult like status with his admirers he could have brought everyone into the tent. At appropriate social distance of course.
Ajax: But he didn’t. Why?
Jumong: He craved control but didn’t want the responsibility. He feared, I think, being ‘wrong’. And let’s face it, that was going to happen. Nobody got the thing right. I believe your New York governor, Cuomo, said: ‘From the very beginning we underestimated this virus and we are paying for it.’ But that is what comes with the territory when you’re in charge.
Ajax: So bottom line, he very badly wants something he isn’t very good at. He’s frightened, deep down.
Jumong: I’d say he’s a Dikless Diktator.