I stumbled upon this Guardian video clip a short while ago, showing excerpts from speeches at the UN General Assembly by Donald Trump and Jacinda Ardern. It contrasts Trump’s America first with Ardern’s global cooperation and kindness. I think it neatly sums up the difference between the American and New Zealand styles of leadership:
I just read a Washington Post article on Trump’s visit to France, and his foul mood with almost everyone. One of the comments on the article came from someone identifying themself as “Just me 2015”. They referred to a sentence within the article:
Trump told aides he thought he looked “terrible” and blamed his chief of staff’s office, and Fuentes in particular, for not counseling him that skipping the cemetery visit would be a public-relations nightmare.
To which Just me 2015 commented:
Wait a minute… President TV-Ratings-Genius didn’t realize that skipping out on the ceremony he’d come to attend, the ceremony honoring fallen soldiers from WWI, and blaming it on rain grounding a military-grade helicopter, was going to look bad? I’m shocked! /s
That comment neatly summarises Trumps abilities, not only in public relations, but in practically every endeavor he undertakes.
Fellow Kiwi Blogger Bill Peddie provides another example of how Trump’s unilateralism has the potential to cause more harm than good.
And while Trump might have a point that Russia has not followed the letter of the INF nuclear treaty, it can also be argued that America has not followed the spirit of it by developing drone technology as an alternative nuclear weapons delivery system.
Although I follow what President Trump is trying to give as his real reason for pulling out of the current long-standing INF nuclear treaty with Russia, it is more than a little worry that we are left to puzzle why he comes across as one who talks as if he is unaware of some recent history of nuclear treaties. […]
Spouting facts comes naturally to me. It’s a trait that I have with many (but not all) who are also on the autism spectrum.
But I often find I am short of words when I wish to express an opinion or an emotion or an idea. This too is a trait I have in common with many others on the spectrum.
I don’t often reblog, but when I do it’s because I have found a post that expresses an idea, feeling or opinion that I have been contemplating or struggling with recently, and have no idea how to express it in my own words.
The article below is not strictly a reblog in the WordPress sense, but its sentiments reflect much of why I have little time for Trump supporters. It can be found at many places on the Web, and it’s authorship has been attributed to a number of people, but I believe the original author is Adam-Troy Castro.
So here, in the words of Mr Castro, is why I think Trump supporters are stupid
An anguished question from a Trump supporter: “Why do liberals think Trump supporters are stupid?”
The serious answer: Here’s what we really think about Trump supporters – the rich, the poor, the malignant and the innocently well-meaning, the ones who think and the ones who don’t…
That when you saw a man who had owned a fraudulent University, intent on scamming poor people, you thought “Fine.”
That when you saw a man who had made it his business practice to stiff his creditors, you said, “Okay.”
That when you heard him proudly brag about his own history of sexual abuse, you said, “No problem.”
That when he made up stories about seeing muslim-Americans in the thousands cheering the destruction of the World Trade Center, you said, “Not an issue.”
That when you saw him brag that he could shoot a man on Fifth Avenue and you wouldn’t care, you chirped, “He sure knows me.”
That when you heard him illustrate his own character by telling that cute story about the elderly guest bleeding on the floor at his country club, the story about how he turned his back and how it was all an imposition on him, you said, “That’s cool!”
That when you saw him mock the disabled, you thought it was the funniest thing you ever saw.
That when you heard him brag that he doesn’t read books, you said, “Well, who has time?”
That when the Central Park Five were compensated as innocent men convicted of a crime they didn’t commit, and he angrily said that they should still be in prison, you said, “That makes sense.”
That when you heard him tell his supporters to beat up protesters and that he would hire attorneys, you thought, “Yes!”
That when you heard him tell one rally to confiscate a man’s coat before throwing him out into the freezing cold, you said, “What a great guy!”
That you have watched the parade of neo-Nazis and white supremacists with whom he curries favor, while refusing to condemn outright Nazis, and you have said, “Thumbs up!”
That you hear him unable to talk to foreign dignitaries without insulting their countries and demanding that they praise his electoral win, you said, “That’s the way I want my President to be.”
That you have watched him remove expertise from all layers of government in favor of people who make money off of eliminating protections in the industries they’re supposed to be regulating and you have said, “What a genius!”
That you have heard him continue to profit from his businesses, in part by leveraging his position as President, to the point of overcharging the Secret Service for space in the properties he owns, and you have said, “That’s smart!”
That you have heard him say that it was difficult to help Puerto Rico because it was the middle of water and you have said, “That makes sense.”
That you have seen him start fights with every country from Canada to New Zealand while praising Russia and quote, “falling in love” with the dictator of North Korea, and you have said, “That’s statesmanship!”
That Trump separated children from their families and put them in cages— managing to lose track of 1500 kids— and has opened a tent-city incarceration camp in the desert in Texas – he explains that they’re just “animals” – and you say, “well, ok then.”
That you have witnessed all the thousand and one other manifestations of corruption and low moral character and outright animalistic rudeness and contempt for you, the working American voter, and you still show up grinning and wearing your MAGA hats and threatening to beat up anybody who says otherwise.
What you don’t get, Trump supporters in 2018, is that succumbing to frustration and thinking of you as stupid may be wrong and unhelpful, but it’s also…hear me…charitable.
It’s interesting to compare Trump’s “America First” stance to the Aotearoa New Zealand global stance as presented to the United Nations by our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. To quote from a 1 News report:
In direct opposition to the isolationist and protectionist policies of the US President, Ms Ardern used her address to encourage global leaders to look outward and beyond themselves, to commit to “kindness and collectivism” and to rebuild multilateralism.
The Prime Minister also stated the importance of global leaders re-committing to gender equality and a global effort to combat climate change, describing “any undermining of climate related targets and agreements” as “catastrophic”.
Below is a transcript of her UN statement. In it she emphasises the importance of kindness and collectivism, fairness and inclusiveness. She points out that #MeToo needs to be become #WeToo. If you prefer to hear her speech rather than read it, I’ve included a Youtube clip under the transcript (22m 47s).
Madam President, Mr Secretary-General, friends in the global community.
My opening remarks were in te reo Māori, the language of the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand. As is tradition, I acknowledged those who are here, why we are here, and the importance of our work.
It seems a fitting place to start.
I’m struck as a leader attending my first United Nations General Assembly by the power and potential that resides here.
But in New Zealand, we have always been acutely aware of that.
We are a remote nation at the bottom of the South Pacific. Our nearest neighbours take 3 hours to reach by plane, and anywhere that takes less than 12 hours is considered close. I have no doubt though, that our geographic isolation has contributed to our values.
We are a self-deprecating people. We’re not ones for status. We’ll celebrate the local person who volunteers at their sports club as much as we will the successful entrepreneur. Our empathy and strong sense of justice is matched only by our pragmatism. We are, after all, a country made up of two main islands – one simply named North and the other, South.
For all of that, our isolation has not made us insular.
In fact, our engagement with the world has helped shape who we are.
I am a child of the ’80s. A period in New Zealand’s history where we didn’t just observe international events, we challenged them. Whether it was apartheid in South Africa, or nuclear testing in the Pacific, I grew up learning about my country and who we were, by the way that we reacted to international events. Whether it was taking to the streets or changing our laws, we have seen ourselves as members of a community, and one that we have a duty to use our voice within.
I am an incredibly proud New Zealander, but much of that pride has come from being a strong and active member of our international community, not in spite of it.
And at the heart of that international community, has been this place.
Emerging from a catastrophic war, we have collectively established through convention, charters and rules a set of international norms and human rights. All of these are an acknowledgement that we are not isolated, governments do have obligations to their people and each other, and that our actions have a global effect.
In 1945, New Zealand Prime Minister Peter Fraser said that the UN Charter offered perhaps a last opportunity to work in unison to realise the hope in the hearts of all of us, for a peace that would be real, lasting, and worthy of human dignity.
But none of these founding principles should be consigned to the history books. In fact, given the challenges we face today, and how truly global they are in their nature and impact, the need for collective action and multilateralism has never been clearer.
And yet, for all of that, the debate and dialogue we hear globally is not centred on the relevance and importance of our international institutions. Instead, we find ourselves having to defend their very existence.
That surely leaves us all with the question, how did we get here, and how do we get out?
If anything unites us politically in this place right now it is this – globalisation has had a massive impact on our nations and the people we serve.
While that impact has been positive for many, for others it has not. The transitions our economies have made have often been jarring, and the consequences harsh. And so amongst unprecedented global economic growth, we have still seen a growing sense of isolation, dislocation, and a sense of insecurity and the erosion of hope.
As politicians and governments, we all have choices in how we respond to these challenges.
We can use the environment to blame nameless, faceless ‘other’, to feed the sense of insecurity, to retreat into greater levels of isolationism. Or we can acknowledge the problems we have and seek to fix them.
In New Zealand, going it alone is not an option.
Aside from our history, we are also a trading nation. And proudly so. But even without those founding principles, there are not just questions of nationhood to consider. There are generational demands upon us too.
It should hardly come as a surprise that we have seen a global trend of young people showing dissatisfaction with our political systems, and calling on us to do things differently – why wouldn’t they when they themselves have had to adapt so rapidly to a changing world.
Within a few short decades we now have a generation who will grow up more connected than ever before. Digital transformation will determine whether the jobs they are training for will even exist in two decades. In education or the job market, they won’t just compete with their neighbour, but their neighbouring country.
This generation is a borderless one – at least in a virtual sense. One that increasingly see themselves as global citizens. And as their reality changes, they expect ours to as well – that we’ll see and understand our collective impact, and that we’ll change the way we use our power.
And if we’re looking for an example of where the next generation is calling on us to make that change, we need look no further than climate change.
World leaders queue to meet Jacinda Ardern after her speech. Photo credit: Office of the Prime Minister
Two weeks ago, Pacific Island leaders gathered together at the Pacific Islands Forum.
It was at this meeting, on the small island nation of Nauru, that climate change was declared the single biggest threat to the security of the Pacific. Please, just think about this for a moment.
Of all of the challenges we debate and discuss, rising sea levels present the single biggest threat to our region.
For those who live in the South Pacific, the impacts of climate change are not academic, or even arguable. They are watching the sea levels rise, the extreme weather events increase, and the impact on their water supply and food crops. We can talk all we like about the science and what it means, what temperature rises we need to limit in order to survive, but there is a grinding reality in hearing someone from a Pacific island talk about where the sea was when they were a child, and potential loss of their entire village as an adult.
Our action in the wake of this global challenge remains optional. But the impact of inaction does not. Nations like Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, or Kiribati – small countries who’ve contributed the least to global climate change – are and will suffer the full force of a warming planet.
If my Pacific neighbours do not have the option of opting out of the effects of climate change, why should we be able to opt out of taking action to stop it?
Any disintegration of multilateralism – any undermining of climate related targets and agreements – aren’t interesting footnotes in geopolitical history. They are catastrophic.
In New Zealand we are determined to play our part. We will not issue any further offshore oil and gas exploration permits. We have set a goal of 100 percent renewable energy generation by 2035, established a green infrastructure fund to encourage innovation, and rolled out an initiative to plant one billion trees over the next 10 years.
These plans are unashamedly ambitious. The threat climate change poses demands it.
But we only represent less than 0.2 percent of global emissions.
That’s why, as a global community, not since the inception of the United Nations has there been a greater example of the importance of collective action and multilateralism, than climate change. It should be a rallying cry to all of us.
And yet there is a hesitance we can ill afford. A calculation of personal cost, of self-interest. But this is not the only challenge where domestic self-interest is the first response, and where an international or collective approach has been diluted at best, or rejected at worst.
But it would be both unfair and naive to argue that retreating to our own borders and interests has meant turning our backs on a perfect system. The international institutions we have committed ourselves to have not been perfect.
But they can be fixed.
And that is why the challenge I wish to issue today is this – together, we must rebuild and recommit to multilateralism.
We must redouble our efforts to work as a global community.
We must rediscover our shared belief in the value, rather than the harm, of connectedness.
We must demonstrate that collective international action not only works, but that it is in all of our best interests.
We must show the next generation that we are listening, and that we have heard them.
But if we’re truly going to take on a reform agenda, we need to acknowledge the failings that led us to this cross road.
International trade for instance, has helped bring millions of people out of poverty around the world. But some have felt their standard of living slide. In New Zealand, we ourselves have seen the hesitancy around trade agreements amongst our own population.
The correct response to this is not to repeat mistakes of the past and be seduced by the false promises of protectionism. Rather, we must all work to ensure that the benefits of trade are distributed fairly across our societies.
We can’t rely on international institutions to do this, in the same way as we cannot blame them if they haven’t delivered these benefits. It is incumbent on us to build productive, sustainable, inclusive economies, and demonstrate to our peoples that when done right, international economic integration can make us all better off.
And if we want to ensure anyone is better off, surely it should be the most vulnerable.
In New Zealand we have set ourselves an ambitious goal. We want to be the best place in the world to be a child. It’s hardly the stuff of hard and fast measures – after all, how do you measure play, a feeling of security, happiness?
But we can measure material deprivation, and we can measure poverty, and so we will. And not only that, we are making it law that we report on those numbers every single year alongside our budgets. What better way to hold ourselves to account, and what better group to do that for than children.
But if we are focused on nurturing that next generation, we have to equally worry about what it is we are handing down to them too – including our environment.
In the Māori language there is a word that captures the importance of that role – Kaitiakitanga. It means guardianship. The idea that we have been entrusted with our environment, and we have a duty of care. For us, that has meant taking action to address degradation, like setting standards to make our rivers swimmable, reducing waste and phasing out single-use plastic bags, right through to eradicating predators and protecting our biodiversity.
The race to grow our economies and increase wealth makes us all the poorer if it comes at the cost of our environment. In New Zealand, we are determined to prove that it doesn’t have to be this way.
But these are all actions and initiatives that we can take domestically that ease the blame and pressure on our international institutions. That doesn’t mean they don’t need fixing.
Reforming the UN
As the heart of the multilateral system, the United Nations must lead the way.
We strongly support the Secretary-General’s reform efforts to make the UN more responsive and effective, modernised so that it is capable of dealing with today’s challenges. We encourage him to be ambitious. And we stand with him in that ambition.
But ultimately it is up to us – the Member States – to drive change at the UN.
This includes reforming the Security Council. If we want the Council to fulfil its purpose of maintaining international peace and security, its practices need to be updated so it is not hamstrung by the use of the veto.
New thinking will also be needed if we are to achieve the vision encapsulated in the Sustainable Development Goals. In New Zealand, we have sought to embed the principles behind the SDGs in a new living standards framework that is guiding policy making, and the management of our resources. And we remain committed to supporting the roll out of the SDGs alongside international partners through a significant increase in our Official Development Assistance budget.
But revitalising our international rules-based system isn’t just about the mechanics of how we work together. It also means renewing our commitment to our values.
The UN Charter recalls that the Organisation was formed to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which through two World Wars had brought untold sorrow to humanity. If we forget this history and the principles which drove the creation of the UN we will be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.
In an increasingly uncertain world it is more important than ever that we remember the core values on which the UN was built.
That all people are equal.
That everyone is entitled to have their dignity and human rights respected.
That we must strive to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.
And we must consistently hold ourselves to account on each.
Amongst renewing this commitment though, we have to acknowledge where accountability must continue – and that is especially the case when it comes to equality.
So many gains have been made, each worthy of celebration. In New Zealand we have just marked the 125th year since women were granted the right to vote. We were the first in the world to do so. As a girl I never ever grew up believing that my gender would stand in the way of me achieving whatever I wanted to in life. I am, after all, not the first, but the third female Prime Minister of New Zealand.
But for all of that, we still have a gender pay gap, an over representation of women in low paid work, and domestic violence. And we are not alone.
It seems surprising that in this modern age we have to recommit ourselves to gender equality, but we do. And I for one will never celebrate the gains we have made for women domestically, while internationally other women and girls experience a lack of the most basic of opportunity and dignity.
Me Too must become We Too.
We are all in this together.
I accept that the list of demands on all of us is long. Be it domestic, or international, we are operating in challenging times. We face what we call in New Zealand ‘wicked problems’. Ones that are intertwined and interrelated.
Perhaps then it is time to step back from the chaos and ask what we want. It is in that space that we’ll find simplicity. The simplicity of peace, of prosperity, of fairness. If I could distil it down into one concept that we are pursuing in New Zealand it is simple and it is this. Kindness.
In the face of isolationism, protectionism, racism – the simple concept of looking outwardly and beyond ourselves, of kindness and collectivism, might just be as good a starting point as any. So let’s start here with the institutions that have served us well in times of need, and will do so again.
In the meantime, I can assure all of you, New Zealand remains committed to continue to do our part to building and sustaining international peace and security. To promoting and defending an open, inclusive, and rules-based international order based on universal values.
To being pragmatic, empathetic, strong and kind.
The next generation after all, deserves no less.
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.
After Watching his speech at the UN and parts of his 80 minute “press conference” (I couldn’t stomach the whole thing), I really think Trump’s sense of reality (if he ever had it) has left him for good. Give him a mirror and park him in the corner. The world will be better off.
Columbia University professor of linguistics John McWhorter, describes Trump’s use of language as being adolescent like. The discussion in the clip below is quite insightful:
Trump in UN speech regarding aid:
We will examine what is working, what is not working, and whether the countries who receive our dollars and our protection also have our interests at heart.
Moving forward, we are only going to give foreign aid to those who respect us and, frankly, are our friends.
In other words, the US will give aid only when it furthers their own interests. The welfare of the recipients is of no significance. How very “Christian”!
I don’t know if the comments of our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the clip below (starting at 1:19) are a deliberate dig at the Trump style of leadership, but I’d like to think so:
Too good an opportunity for Trump to pass up? A Russian asbestos manufacturer uses a fake Trump endorsement in their product. And while it’s unlikely that Trump gave permission for his “official” endorsement to be emblazoned on pallets of asbestos, his attitude towards the carcinogen, and the prospect of his face being visible on every building site in America, might be reasons why he would like restrictions on asbestos to be relaxed.