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Einstein versus Trump*

Written By: - Date published: 7:00 am, April 18th, 2021 - 10 comments
Categories: accountability, activism, articles, broadcasting, Deep stuff, democracy under attack, Donald Trump, education, journalism, Media, news, newspapers, politicans, Politics - Tags: ,

The world is bewildering and people struggle to see the wood for the trees. Indeed, finding good news sources that one can rely on is not an easy task that requires constant reviewing – is it still worth my time to read this? – and decluttering, as Lprent said in his post. But how many people simply rely on a couple of sites and following a few ‘heroes’ (or gurus?) with big ‘halos’ and large number of ‘worshippers’ around on YouTube instead of being critical of content? I would say not many. And it shows in the quality of debate on complex issues that affect all of us, whether we like it or not.

We also rely on our political representative in Parliament to be informed and on top of their game. Only a well-informed citizenry can hold their representatives to account, ask the right questions, give constructive criticism, and make informed decisions, e.g. in elections. When the people stop demanding answers, explanations, and justifications from their representatives, they’ll create a divide between the ‘rulers’ and the ‘ruled’, an us-versus-them situation, which is when and where things start to unravel.

The media are the primary source of news and information for the people. They act as the messengers and go-in-between the people and politicians. In a way, the media are our representative too and they should ask the right question on our behalf. If they don’t, they don’t serve us well. However, the so-called Parliamentary Press Gallery is now over 150 years old with some of its members having been there for almost as long. Similarly, the pool of politicians in Parliament is small and static too. In other words, a very small number of familiar faces who know each other inside out performs a critical and fundamental function of and for our democratic society. Is that healthy? I’m not at all surprised that boundaries are further blurred when current and former politicians write material for the media and, in essence, become one of them. Does that serve us well, as citizens and voters, as consumers and subscribers?

To avoid this trap, politicians could talk directly with the people without having the media filtering and interpreting or extrapolating words and meanings. During the 2020 lockdowns, Chlöe Swarbrick held her wonderful daily afternoon sessions at 5 pm on Facebook. This was about as direct a two-way communication as one could get with a busy Member of Parliament. Unfortunately, I believe these sessions are no longer happening. Scheduled stand-up pressers with the usual media suspects ain’t gonna cut it. And let’s not mention Mike.

The media must ensure the information is timely and correct and that it is as complete as possible – an OIA that is taken seriously by the powers that be is vital in this. But they must do more than that; they must also educate their readers and/or viewers. This is not easy either; it is much easier to increase readership with clickbait and lazy infotainment. When explaining complex stuff, Einstein’s famous quote comes to mind:

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

In other words, don’t dumb it down too much so that it loses its essence and veracity. As it turns out, Einstein may have never said this; it may have been a simplification of something he said that more or less meant the same thing. The irony is strong; who knew?

To give them credit, some NZ media are doing their best to fill this role as well as they can. The Detail by RNZ is one example, which often is syndicated to the other main NZ media websites. Newsroom has excellent in-depth articles too that explain things well. Stuff has just launched a new section called Stuff Explained. We need this and more of it, now and in future.

Life is complex and sometimes painful and trying to reduce it to meaningless rants and slogans and to shield people from pain ultimately is cruel and ineffective; unlike the fictional situation in the movie Life is Beautiful, you would not do it to your children because you know that it would backfire at and for them. As Trump has shown us so well and, dare I say it, so ‘eloquently’ in his Twitter oeuvre. Media personalities and politicians alike could use their popularity and traction with the public to achieve positive outcomes and be positive role models; many of them are indeed actual parents too and all of them have circles of intimate friends and family.

Whether the people are willing to absorb complexity and nuance is the question. It appears that some prefer the Trumpian approach to life and politics and resort to ranting slogans and spreading of simpleton simplicities that are not even fit for bumper stickers; you cannot make a horse drink from the wisdom well.

Ignorance is no excuse for not engaging with politics, be it local-regional or central-national, for political inaction. Ignorance is also no excuse for constant negativity with no purpose; it has no justification, moral or otherwise. The banality of evil is not leaders who do not fulfil the wishes of the people, as populists promise but never deliver, it is not just ‘good’ people doing nothing and going about their daily comfy lives, but mostly it is ‘good’ people who reduce the complexity of life and politics to meaningless absurdities that twist meanings and perceptions of reality to satisfy their own agendas and personal fantasies, i.e. judgmental people who make others feel bad about their views and opinions, their culture and/or religion, about who they are. Such ‘evil’ people are everywhere, in politics, in the media, and in the population at large; there are an awful lot of mini-Trumps out there, angry, arrogant, aggressive, but not ignorant and they have no excuse for their evil actions. We need more Einsteins and fewer Trumps.

What do you choose to be?

*if Trump wins, we all lose bigly

10 comments on “Einstein versus Trump* ”

  1. Pat 1

    Would that be the same Einstein who may or may not have said "doing the same shit over and over expecting a different result is the definition of insanity"?

  2. Sabine 2

    these guys said it best and they sad it quite some time ago

    released 2004 under G.W.Bush ….such a long time ago.

  3. ghostwhowalksnz 3

    Its sort of common now to put Einstein on a pedestal of knowledge thats always correct

    But even by 1927 he was 'out of date' with the newer paradigms covering his area of quantum physics

    'Quantum mechanics is very impressive. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory produces a good deal but hardly brings us closer to th'e secret of the Old One. I am at all events convinced that He does not play dice." Letter to Bohr

    In a different area of knowledge Im much more glad to see the traditional paradigms of economic theory tossed on the bonfire of reality.

    • Poission 3.1

      Einsteins arguments were from the implication that we do not live in a deterministic universe,and problems arise in the interpretation of the statement (by the observer)

      Eg (the author of the Forbes article)

    • Obtrectator 3.2

      Einstein most certainly was not always correct. He fudged his own equations in the General Theory of Relativity when he didn't like their implications. (But he did have the grace to acknowledge later that he'd been wrong to do so.)

      • Peter 3.2.1

        On his rightest days did Trump get near to Einstein on his wrongest days?

        (Accepting of course that Trump was so bright he realised he was that dumb he'd have to get someone to sit his school tests.)

  4. Stuart Munro 4

    You cannot make a horse drink from the wisdom well

    Wisdom is out of fashion at present – what passes for contemporary academia seem much more fond of iconoclastic conflicts than the difficult and possibly compromising syntheses that, by accretion, build the sum of knowledge.

    Thanks to an irresponsible media culture, our society is balkanised into groups that prioritize money, the environment, freedom from government interference, community, and various special interests like firearms or identity politics or hydrofoil yachting. This paralyzes the political process and rewards those who benefit from the most egregious failings of the status quo – sectors like private healthcare or migrant worker exploitation.

    Wisdom is acquired, if at all, by making mistakes, and since Rogergnomics our citizens have been presented with more potentially enlightening material than most. There is little or no evidence of learning however – political responses to chronic failings remain distinctly pedestrian.

    And it is the pedestrian adoption of often doomed policies (like hydrogen), that is one of the biggest drivers of populism. The public waits for the powers that be to get off their gluteuses and actually do something. Some, like Trump voters, will be satisfied with absolutely anything – even a wall. Anomalies like the unprecedented Covid response could not help but be popular.

    At a time when as a country we need both stimulus measures and meticulously thought out long term transport and carbon and housing planning, the government ought to be every bit as active on those fronts as they are on Covid.

    • Incognito 4.1

      Sound judgement is considered a defining aspect of wisdom. Judgemental hyper-critical negative people do not demonstrate sound judgement and are therefore unwise. The worst ones, IMO, are the evil do-gooders who believe they are justified in their morally and/or intellectually righteous put downs of others. The more I hear or see from them, the more I want to tell them STFU, against all good judgment 🙁

      BTW, thank you for your comment; you were the only one who seemed to get the gist of the OP.

      • Stuart Munro 4.1.1

        I might, in better times have been less critical, and sometimes feel some guilt for it – but I'm also trying not to deny the reality of my lived experience, which moves me to some scepticism of the civil service, which, in the pre-neoliberal times when I worked for it, might not have been the case.

        One of my political theories is of multiple communities of experience, in which both those that have the latitude to consider the good faith efforts of contemporary civil servants, and those on the bleeding edge of the failures, who do not, must somehow be heard and understood. It's somewhat akin to the artist's paradox, of keeping two contradictory ideas in one's head at once, at which I can claim no particular success.

        • Incognito

          Very interesting comment!

          I think it’s ok to be sceptical of the Public Service and hold them to account at each and every level although our personal dealings tend to be limited to front-line staff and figureheads in the media – the invisible mush in between largely remains a mystery to us but we know it is there, it must be, even though we sometimes prefer to draw a straight line from front-desk staff to Minister and back. However, with many, healthy scepticism has made way for stone-cold cynicism and even downward hatred. WINZ staff were killed for no other reason that they were working for WINZ; they were not criminals or gang members, but ordinary people doing an ordinary job to make a living and earn a mediocre salary to pay their bills and feed their children and pets. People are not treating each other as humans anymore, but as cases and case-workers.

          Our experiences of these encounters and media reports, for example, are influenced by our views and vice versa. We are not free neutral or objective observers; we interact with-influence the system and the system interacts with-influences us. This is another nod to Einstein.

          You mentioned neo-liberalism and that’s an angle I’m currently working on; many of the comments so far in my other post are missing this crucial dimension, IMO.

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