Repulsive, morally bankrupt and Dangerous: A Year of the Trump Administration

This Friday marks one whole year since the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States. In an election result which shocked the world the previous November, the tycoon had vowed to “Make America Great Again” and thus won the support of enough disillusioned blue collar Americans to win via the electoral vote. After a campaign which was filled with inflammatory rhetoric and unapologetic racism, the warning signs were all there. Anyone with an ounce of sense was concerned as to what might come of a Trump Presidency, but, there was also a minuscule hope that the pressure, expectations and demands of such an elite office would “moderate” his behaviour accordingly…

It didn’t. One year on, the Trump administration has been very much as bad as people feared. The repulsiveness and moral ineptitude which shaped his hugely controversial campaign has continued unabated as the standard bearer of his premiership, all without a shred of self-consciousness, decency or humility to go along with it. Only in the campaign itself did President Obama speak out against Trump, noting that the Presidency of the United States “was not a Reality TV show“. As much as that term may be too generous to describe the present situation, without a doubt Donald’s swelling ego-centrism and childlike tendency to be the centre of all attention has turned the White House into a sour, twisted joke.

Except, it isn’t funny. Trump’s actions and decisions as President have been nothing short of abysmal, perhaps even disgraceful. The race baiting jibes which magnetized his base were unapologetically shoved into the fabric of policymaking itself. Opporunistic travel bans, the branding of entire regions of the world with repulsive language unfit for a President, the endorsement of fascist groups in his allied states, the endorsement of pro-segregation candidates in elections (Roy Moore) and the failure to confront violent white supremacy are but a few of ever the growing mountain of incidences excrementally pouring out of the oval office. Time and time again, the President has shamelessly and willingly utilized racist sentiments to set his narratives and reach out to his “base”.

But that isn’t the end of it. He’s setting off on a rampage of environmental desolation, withdrawing from the most comprehensive climate change in History, now the only country in the world to reject it; he’s piling up a bombfire of Obama era environmental regulations on coal, oil and carbon emissions, some which came in the aftermath of the gulf of Mexico Oil Spill. Beyond that, he is a diplomatic disaster and a danger on the world stage. He has reduced the horrors of nuclear war to the gratification of his own ego, threatening it casually, recklessly and ignorantly in defiance of norms which have long opposed their usage. He has insulted countries, peoples and leaders around the world on a whim, alienating and taunting even his closest allies.

His every achievement has been based on outright lies, hysterical exaggeration and misinformation. On an almost daily basis he claims credit for the rising stock market on twitter, despite that it has been concurrently rising for years. He takes unreserved credence for the U.S economic recovery too, despite the fact it was well in the wings before he came along, never mind that the very nature of the Presidency itself has very little direct power in how to direct the American economy… unless of course it is signing off tax cuts for the ultra wealthy. When has been criticized, he has simply tried to say his predecessor Obama, or “loser” Hilary Clinton are worse. Everything unfavorable to him has been dismissed haughtily as “fake news”, a term he has tweeted statistically once every three days… thus at least over 100 times in a single year. He has emphatically and enthusiastically rejected the truth itself, bolstering the attitude that no legitimate criticism of him is authorized to exist.

So what can be concluded? For all America is globally popular for its iconic culture, films, entertainment, technology and food, Trump, on the other hand stands as the physical embodiment of its “ugly side”, the America the world has despised, than adored. He is a manifestation of the country’s lingering racism and prejudices, the appalling ignorance that persists in some areas of its society, the injustices that continue to drive a country built on “justice”, and of course, the ugly Republican politics which thrives on these morbid sentiments. There should be no doubts amongst any critically minded person that the Trump Presidency is a walking, moral catastrophe with no redeeming features whatsoever. It is ultimately likely as the term progresses, the administration will can grow in its its vulgarity, its detachment from reality and its determination to plague America and the world with a nastier, cheaper and ill-fitted form of politics which will damage the country’s global image for years to come.



A few quick thoughts on Trump

Will the decent GOP voters who thought he couldn’t be worse than “Crooked Hilary” re-think their position?

Donald Trump somehow managed to become the President of the United States at the beginning of this year having scraped an election by snapping up a host of working class swing states in the North East and Midwest (despite losing the popular vote). His opponent, Hilary Clinton, was constantly beset as an unpopular and uninspiring candidate radiating the image of a sinister establishment figure who could “not be trusted”. Thus, despite a campaign offset with enormous controversies and serious questions of suitability, Trump was able to claim the day through people who somehow felt he was the “least worst option”, whilst certain Democrat leaning groups failed to turn out in necessary enough numbers to get their candidate over the line.

Six months later, none of the narratives established by Trump’s campaign or his supporters really hold up to scrutiny any more. The very conceptualization that he could “not be worse than Hilary” or that Hilary was truly the “dangerous candidate” to America (in terms of foreign policy) could not look more stupid, or deceptive, in the light of what we have seen already. Alternatively, whilst Hilary failed to inspire many, the numerous warnings which came from her campaign that Trump was truly unfit for office in terms of competence, experience, integrity and leadership could not look more accurate (and I believe that perception is only going to increase as time goes by).

Thus the truth is now, whilst Clinton would not have been an inspirational or particularly loved President, she would not have been the incapable, reckless, dangerous and ridiculous mess we see now. She would not be threatening nuclear war over twitter, or dismissing all criticism of her as “FAKE NEWS” statistically once every thee days. She would not have invoked public outrage by appearing to apologise for the KKK and white supremacists, have withdrawn from the most comprehensive international treaty on climate change in Human history or openly alienated U.S allies around the world. At worst, Hilary would have been “normal”, a continuation of the status quo, but it seems that millions, so lost in disillusion, anger and apathy, forgot just how important a “normal Presidency” ought to be to them, all the way to the point of willingly surrendering that normality and reason for something that would turn out much worse.

Let’s face it, it was obvious as well, Trump is a Trojan horse to the Presidency, yet, I’d say it was still possibly the most poorly disguised and unconvincing Trojan Horse in American history. All empirical evidence, all arguments, all debate, pointed to the fact Trump was blatantly unfit, yet millions of Americans, blinded by their disillusionment and resentment, seemed to just stop caring. In the process, they took for granted everything a”business as usual” Presidency brings; safety, stability, normality. Now, American society is crying out for those things more than ever as the country spirals downwards on a dangerous path towards racialised conflict and disunity.

Thus, six months or so on, the obvious has finally dawned on all but the most extreme of his supporters.

Understanding Political Extremism and its Origins- Fascism, Jihadism and Communism


What we define as “Extremism” is understood as a moral problem, a problem whereby an individual, ideology, group or organisation pursues a course of action, in the name of some cause, which violates established ethical and reasoned judgement. In Western historical memory, the term invigorates accounts of unprecedented human tragedies, accumulating in death, destruction, chaos and unimaginable suffering. After all, the most infamous and horrifying example of extremism in human history, Nazi Germany, scars people with the dangers of what such movements can lead to if given popular support.

The moral lessons derived from history’s tragedies are thus not without good reason. The Nazi example has become a benchmark of the potential dangers of things deemed “extreme”. Nonetheless, despite the lessons of the past being there to see, western societies repeatedly fail in their understanding of what gives birth to things perceived extreme. For example, there is a very common misguided belief that movements deemed “extremist” arise purely because people are morally flawed, deceived, or ignorant- therefore, “moralising” the people who support such irrationally driven movements is the apparent answer to make them go away.

Whilst extremism obviously, has to be challenged, the response above represents one of the biggest flaws to popular western political and social thought. The assumption that moral incentives alone drive people’s political decisions. People who believe such have a far too optimistic, naive and trusting perception of human nature. Sane Human beings are not moral for moral’s sake, rather they are moral in the shape of how their social, political and economic interests compel them to be moral. The human ego is self-justifying, it adjusts its moral understanding of the world according to its situation.

The homeowner is satisfied, so why would they endorse an abolition of private property? Yet a starving person in a famished country, compelled by  hunger, would by instinct self justify stealing from those better off to survive. Do we believe that by telling the starving and famished thief, with no other hope for food, that is stealing wrong that they will change their course of action? I am sure at one point they were certainly taught it was wrong, yet it does not stop them. Why? Because moral incentives do not trump (pun) self interest. Therefore in politics, self-interest becomes the raw unit of action and behaviour. Moral incentives may lead people to disguise or adapt their interests to be more socially acceptable, but it does not change the way they feel and therefore, how they will choose to act.

Therefore, extremism does not begin with a burning sense of hatred or moral flaw, it begins with a person, or a group of people, who’s economic, political and social needs are not being met by a given state or unit. This can be through inequality, economic decline or any other scenario which allows a sense of deep injustice to formulate within enough people to become serious, regardless of what the moral teachings of that system are. If you are entrapped within a system which you are deeply dissatisfied about, why would you accept that particular political order and its moral teachings? If that system on paper taught liberty and equality, why would you believe it if it did not benefit your needs? why would you have any incentive to endorse it if it offered you nothing? It’s like asking Nelson Mandela why he didn’t believe in Apartheid.

Therefore, if you are feeling so angry, so discontent and so disaffected, you will be drawn towards other incentives instead, things which radically challenge that particular order you have grown to resent. Something which offers you understanding and meaning about your place in the world which the current system isn’t giving you, something which constructs a target to vent your anger at, to blame for your unhappy situation and something which claims to offer you the future you would never have. Often, only extremist causes are left claiming to represent those needs, which is how they progress  from the sidelines to the mainstream, giving credence to ideas which would not be accepted in normal circumstances, they will question the entire moral standing of the status quo, seek to dismantle it and replace it with something different. Often, this can open the door for deadly consequences. The more extreme people’s circumstances, the more extreme are the alternative ideologies.

Extremist movements socially shape people’s anger and disaffection, caused by an absence of human need, towards various things. Hitler did not rise because he was telling people not to like Jews, but rather rose because he promised prosperity and glory to a disaffected population not benefiting from a chaotic status quo, thus it became in peoples interest to tacitly follow through with his plans. The Communist Party of China did not arise with a pledge to destroy everything in the cultural revolution, but rose because they offered an alternative to a peasantry crippled by poverty and foreign occupation. ISIS fighters do not start out by wanting to kill people or because “they are Muslims”, but because their extreme isolation, alienation and lack of economic opportunities for the future draws them into an ideology which teaches them to fight the world around them. The group having started out because angry, young Sunni men, living in impoverished and chaotic countries with no life opportunities, continually bombed and invaded by foreign powers, wanted a better future.

Therefore, moral incentives alone do not stop the rise of extremism. For example, calling someone a racist, bigot, etc for supporting Donald Trump, does not change their mind. Why would you want to listen to someone who treats you with contempt? So many things have been said about Donald Trump, despite all the name calling, all the denunciations and all the protests, it still so happens the fabled wall and the “Muslim Ban” are actually becoming realities. American society failed to convince millions and millions of people that it was in their interest to support the status quo. Disaffected people have less reason to comply with a political order which has left them behind. Satisfied, middle class people, attempting to moralise and take a high ground over others achieves nothing.

Therefore, how do you halt extremist politics? You seek to create a society whereby nobody is left behind, a harmonious one, one which everyone can benefit from. A society which is inclusive, rather than exclusive. A society which makes sure that no group of people are neglected or ignored in preference of another. It should be a society which does not preach, but practices instead. A society with equal opportunity, one where it is in the interests of all to follow a moral and just order.

Therefore, you don’t make a better world by preaching to people, you don’t make a better world by asserting your moral superiority over others, you don’t make a better world by signing childish petitions pledging to ban someone from visiting your country. You make a better world by understanding people for who they really are, grasping their situations and helping find alternatives which do not involve resorts to extreme political choices.

Donald Trump and the demise of the American Dream


The “American Dream” conjures up a powerful image, yet it is one rooted in the past than in the future. If we think of it uncritically, it embodies hope, equality, opportunity, fortune, liberty, wealth and aspiration. We warmly imagine the scene of European migrants arriving at Ellis Island by boat in the early 20th century, gazing at the statue of Liberty in the distance as a bringer of their long awaited search for a new life. The atmosphere, vibes and bustling scenes of 1920s New York City flows through our minds- we develop empathy with the new arrivals, we recognize what must have been going through their minds at that time. Such was symbolic of all America was made out to be, a dream, a fantasy and utopia for the poor and oppressed.

Yet, these warm and glowing images are rooted in a thick nostalgia, fading to a pale and murky complexion as we fast forwards to contemporary America. For whatever reason, few people associate what we imagine as the “American Dream” with the present day. Whilst undoubtedly there are millions of people out there who could only dream of living in such a prosperous country, for all too many that “dream” and the hopes we assigned to it are history. Not least, for the American people themselves. The election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States has became symbolic of a divided, broken and disfigured nation, a pathology to a ill-functioning and cynical society. Never in living memory, be it from those who are loathing Trump’s election or the disillusioned and frustrated voters who propelled him to power, has American politics been characterized with such scathing anger or a sense of despair. In this regard, to everyone it seems the “American Dream” is but a fading memory, its meaning in people’s present lives has been completely lost.

However, the American dream was never more than what it professed to be, a dream, not a reality; a popular depiction of a nation viewed from the outside as an opportunity for self-realization and for many within, a sense of being and belonging. Whether it was personal freedom or religious freedom, America captured hearts and minds. It has been the engine of global popular culture, business, finance, science and media for the turn of a century. Yet for all these achievements and all these triumphs, there were deep divisions, tensions and problems hidden deep beneath the surface, unresolved and ignored for centuries, all of which would cause a nation commonly associated with progress to slowly proceed down a path of self-capitulation that now seems inescapable.

Those outside may have envisioned the American dream, but on the inside tensions have prevailed because the “opportunity” it was once categorized with has been lost. For the white working collar voters, how can the vastly unequal layout of the American economy prove to be the dream their ancestors envisioned?  For African Americans, how can the dream of liberation from a history of slavery, oppression and discrimination be actualized through the same dramatic economic and social inequalities? and not least, through the institutional racism of the police? For Hispanic voters, how can the American Dream they really hope to achieve be possible when rhetoric such as a “Build a wall!” and “mass deportations!” now looms over their futures?

Thus, the deep set inequality, injustice and static nature of American politics and society has stumbled in the face of change, wiping away the dreams of the past. Barack Obama was a strong, inspiring and good willed character whom even when you disagreed with him, you could never find you disliked him as a person. He understood America’s troubles, yet trapped through the gridlock of congress, the lobbyist oligarchy and multi-layered prison of constraints and other interests he was rendered a lame duck, powerless in the continual static to halt his nations retrogression. His Presidency, unfairly to him, categorised the polarisation of American society as discontent, division and anger boiled through financial crisis and poor economic performances, breaking through the surface it had long been hidden under and manifesting itself in counterproductive ways. Thus, the most shocking thing now is that from the “hope” widely envisioned in his election in 2008, is the end result. His successor? Donald Trump. Just let that sink in. If that is so, what is left of Obama’s legacy? From the the man who spoke of peace, progress and unity, to “ban all Muslims!”, “build a wall” and “grab ’em by the p***y!” in the space of just eight years, it seems like a bad dream, but it isn’t.

What we see now is the pace America is unraveling, not least the demise of the American dream. Too much faith in liberal capitalist ideology, a constitution which can not be seriously changed, an economy which only exists to serve people like Donald Trump (ironically) and a self-righteous, crusading foreign policy, is what has finally got us to where we are now. The American system risks becoming an anachronism to the challenges of the modern world. I grasp the anger, the frustration and the sense of disempowerment those who voted Donald Trump feel, as well as those who couldn’t bring themselves to turn out and vote for Hilary. It manifests an astonishing lack of faith in the status quo, yet he is not the answer, neither was Hilary- if Obama himself wasn’t, then what does that hold for the future?

Without a doubt, the American dream is over, an uncertain and unstable future awaits. Even if Donald Trump is not a disaster in the sense people fear he will be, he will begin as the most despised, unpopular and opposed President in American history and as his predecessor found, there’s nothing he can do about it.



My Reaction- An uncertain future, Trump’s victory as an embodiment of western decline.


In the year 1992, scholar Francis Fukuyama famously published a book he described “the end of history“. Writing in the context of American triumph in the Cold, War, he argued that western liberal supremacy and globalization had permanently triumphed and represented a new stage in the socio-cultural evolution of human beings. The world was to move towards a “global government” and that the days of conflict, power politics and geo-politics was now consigned to the ash heap of history. Liberalism was evolutionary, there would be no challengers.

Fukuyama’s remarkable shortsightedness embodied the assumption that “progress” manifested itself in the straight, singular line of a historical narrative. It professed erroneous beliefs about Human Nature, convinced that everybody would automatically accept the “fate” of the inevitable Utopian global future and that there could be no conflicting or alternate interests. To Francis, alternative conceptions of his idealized world were simply not possible. Not even 10 years after his book’s publication, the world stood stunned as militant Jihadists purposefully plowed civilian passenger jets into the World Trade Centre buildings in New York City; the world changed forever. Fukuyama’s dream was over before it even begun. Out there, some people willfully disagreed with the notion of an American led, liberal world, feeling disempowered even to the point of waging extreme violence against civilian populations.

Since that fateful day, such a vision of a “global future” has become more and more of a ill conceived dream than an inevitably of human history. The work embodied the normative thinking that has underpinned western political thought in the modern era, that liberal values are special, supreme, exceptional and unquestionable. Everyone wants globalized capitalism, everyone wants democracy, everyone wants human rights and anyone who dare disagrees is guilty of some kind of pathology of thought, often prescribed as “bigotry”, “ignorance” or worse, despotism and tyranny- It is so believed that Liberalism is the only educated way of thinking, its detractors, who have different ideas concerning nationality, gender, democracy, sexuality and political order are scarcely human.

This belief in Liberal supremacy however, was and is the pathology, a mutated deviation from what it was first conceived to be. John Stuart Mill envisioned Liberalism as a means of achieving progress, he sought most of all a scenario where people would be free to criticize one another’s ideas and thinking so that progress would assume a “Darwinist” survival of the fittest character. Yet, as liberalism came to dominate the global ideological sphere in the late 20th century, the ideology was elevated to a god like status whereby it became taboo to even question its undisputed supremacy or triumph. A globalized business, political, media and cosmopolitan elite assumed its guardianship, smearing, mocking and belittling its critics, whilst waging crusades against nations who sought to resist the Americanisation of their cultures, values and way of life.

However, Liberalism’s self perceived invincibility soon became the emperor’s new clothes, with nobody daring to highlight the cracks formulating in the western world. The global capitalist system worked exclusively in the interests of the wealthy, punishing the poor in their lost for continual profit. Concurrently, as globalization willfully eroded the culture and identity of nations, people became angry and disillusioned, a sealed cauldron continuing to boil. Yet, to question the Liberal God was a blasphemy of heretical proportions, the satisfied groups could only respond by dismissing the growing discontent as ignorance and bigotry, firmly convinced moral incentives could suppress the reality they could not accept.

Unwanted and unlistened to, part of a global economic system that was scarcely benefiting them, the blue collars of western nations have sought to vent their frustrations elsewhere, venting in outlets which in “normal times” would seem to transcend rationality. The accumulation has manifest in a British vote to withdraw from the European Union and the shock election of one of the most controversial, unqualified and bizarre Presidential candidates in American history. Why? Because the political, economic and social status quo have failed the masses. It is a broken system, a flawed system, only kept alive by the zeal and delusion of its own self-righteousness. Yet for making such rebellious and conscious choices for political change, the liberal intelligentsia have only sought to treat these people with more contempt, belittlement and an inability to understand their worldviews.

Now, there will be consequences and they won’t be by any stretch, good ones. Liberalism has failed and western civilization is broken, which is why it is making pathological, abnormal and destabilizing political decisions, driven by anger and bitterness than an opt for the common good. The cult of Liberalism has became a road block to the progress of human thought- senselessly defending a hopelessly divided, unequal and morally bankrupt society which is only convinced of its own personal, individualistic worth. It is moral virtue signalling of the worst and most insincere kind. Without a doubt, Donald Trump will not “make America Great Again”, bur rather we will witness how a society has effectively destroyed and will continue to destroy, itself. It is a brave and conscious act of rebellion by the American working classes, yet President Trump is not the solution to their problems.

You cannot erase societies problems by papering the cracks by simply accusing people of bigotry or racism for daring to think differently. This could have all been prevented.

Understanding Western Sinophobia and Anti-Chinese Sentiment

What we refer to as “China” draws up remarkable images in Western imagination. It’s a land so distant, so far away and seemingly so removed from our own familiarity that it captures the awe, wonder, intrigue but also the contempt and prejudice of every day opinion. Go and ask people about China and you’ll hear novel depictions of mighty great walls, exquisite architecture, oriental dragons, terracotta warriors, decorated pottery and mysterious calligraphy. Yet if you dig deeper, you’ll probably hear unpleasant and rash stereotypes such as, pollution, smog poor quality goods, dodgy business practices and brutal politics.

Taking these common stereotypes into account, it is not outlandish to say that people in Western countries as a whole don’t know much about “China”. At best, the country is interpreted through a number of novelesque “mythologies”, subconscious biases and popular imaginations very much in the frame of what has been described above, most of which are perpetuated throughout media, politics and popular culture. People genuinely think that China is a bit of a “backwards” country, but that they’re in a process of “becoming like us” and ought to “adapt our values”- once this happens, we assume they will shake off the chains of the “brutal” and “backwards” Communist Party and become a “progressive” liberal democracy, just like the west.

This form of highly patronizing and be-littling thinking underlines most Western approaches to the world outside outside of the Atlantic-European sphere, in a school of thought which Arabic scholar Edward Said described as “Orientalism”. Rooted in European colonialist thinking, Orientalism is a mentality that naturally assumes that nations and cultures of alternate political cultures to those which originated in Western Europe are naturally, inferior, barbaric, backwards and in need of “assistance” by the means of western powers (originally those in Europe, now the United States) to achieve progress. Although “Orientalism” originated as a term to describe Western policy and depictions of the Islamic world and Middle East, its definition has became applicable to numerous other cultures who have suffered from Western political supremacy, not least that of China.

Orientalist thinking demands that “non-Western cultures”and nations may only exist on “Western terms”, portraying those who refuse to comply as morally evil, despotic and deficient to rule, often as a justification to draw up popular support for conflict, military intervention and regime change. It continually attempts to portray global affairs as a sensationalized battle between good and evil, drawing on fictionalized narratives of a morally benevolent west battling against an evil, non-western political despotism that will “challenge the cause of freedom” or “morality” alike- Since the 19th century, such thinking has evolved from a focus on explicit racism towards a more subtle obsession with forcing liberal values on counties of different political traditions.

“The Yellow terror”- early Sinophobic works in the west depicted China as brutal and threatening to “western values”- it became a benchmark for modern thinking

Such thinking between the West and China has a long tradition, all of which has laid the foundation for the popular Sinophobia we see today (as described above). In the 18th and 19th centuries, European states sought to depict the Qing Dynasty as a backwards state in need of “western help” to achieve modernisation. In a form not too distant from today, the Chinese people were described in the literature of era as naturally despotic, cruel, barbaric and therefore incapable of governing their own affairs. European powers drove such stereotypes as mandates to wage war against the Qing Dynasty and force political and economic concessions from the central kingdom, including the annexation of Hong Kong to British rule. Although European powers never succeeded in annexing China in the way they had done to Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, such attitudes remained deep rooted and transcended into the modern era.

contemporary depiction of Sinophobia

Nowadays, as elaborated in Daniel F. Vukovich’s “China and Orientalism” (2012), contemporary China is constructed as a “lesser other” to the West who must be gradually pressured into adapting the west’s way of life and thought. Popular opinion elaborates the Chinese regime under a racist stereotype of “Oriental Despotism” emphasizing their dis-trustworthiness, evil intentions, lack of humanity, brutality and threat to Western supremacy. Liberal minded individuals and governments scorn China for “human rights”, drumming up highly exaggerated imaginations of “Tiananmen”, “censorship” and “Tibet”. Such concepts are entrenched by equally as misleading portrayals in the media and film industries. It rests on the same archaic thinking that “natural” Chinese thinking and culture are incapable of progress in the way we believe it ought to be and therefore “westernisation” is mandatory”. Even Hong Kong, influenced deeply by British rule, conjures up extreme stereotypes of the “mainland” (内地), attempting to disassociate itself from the concept of “China” as much as possible.

Orientalist thinking is an insult to Chinese culture, society and tradition. It effectively declares the Chinese people cannot think for themselves, that they are inherently ignorant of a situation that we have told them is apparently “bad” and therefore we have to paternalistically save them from themselves! How big of an insult is that? “Sorry China, you don’t know what’s good for yourself, so you have to become like us!

To challenge “Orientalism” and “Sinophobia” requires that we stop thinking about the world in Liberal Universalist terms, stop believing the foreign policy narratives of western powers, ignore the media portrayals of non-western states (good examples include: China, Russia and North Korea), think more critically about our own culture and values in contrast to others and study other nations more in depth. Orientalism is not a conspiracy, but rather a subconscious bias stemming from a lack of attempts to think about the box. To assume that the Chinese regime is evil or immoral just because it doesn’t subscribe to democracy is wrong, because it is built on a popular western stereotypes of “Oriental Despotism” which carries heavy political biases.

Donald Trump, American Secular Nationalism and the Decline of Religious Identity


Donald Trump is making headlines again, and, as usual not for the right reasons. After everything Trump has came out with and his apparent political invincibility despite the distastefulness of his endless remarks, last night’s revelations may prove to be the final nail in his coffin after leaked footage from 2005 shown the Presidential Candidate bragging of his “ability” to seduce and do unspeakable things to any woman he wanted (including married women), made possible through his self-acclaimed wealth and fame. In so many ways, it was typical Trump, the fanatically self-obsessed ego maniac without a shred of shame, modesty, humility or dignity in anything he says or does. Yet the clips were exposed at such a crucial time and were so damaging that it forced an apology out of him, forcing him to concede for the first time (probably in his entire life) that he had made a mistake. The image of this unashamed, lustful and morally repugnant character as the President of the United States, the world’s most powerful and influential figure, leading diplomat and commander in Chief just doesn’t sit well with anyone. But you really don’t need me to point that out do you?

But anyway, what was interesting beyond Trump’s comments was the chorus of leading Republicans whom stood up to condemn their own candidate for the remarks, throwing aside the heated political battlelines of the election to call him Trump and question his moral credentials. This included former candidates Mitt Romney and John McCain, former primary rival Jeb Bush, house speaker Paul Ryan, senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and to simplify it, pretty much anyone capable of putting their conscience first. Yet, the scourge of the Republican elite against the New York tycoon is hardly a new thing. Most of the names mentioned have refused to ever endorse him as the candidate or done so very reluctantly for the sake of saving party face. Trump’s rise in the primaries revealed this scathing fracture at the heart of the Grand Old Party between the “establishment” and the “grass roots” or more generically, the established core of the party and the disenfranchised, “left behind” voters he vacuumed up to propel him to where he is now. In no sense at all (again to state the obvious) has Trump been a normal Republican candidate. Rather than professing his devotion to Christianity and the traditional moral debates dominating U.S politics, such as abortion, school prayer, guns, along with a commitment to small-state liberalism, Trump descended into his own tangent of American secular-nationalism and identity politics, focusing  instead on immigration, security, terrorism and economic protectionism.

This dramatic shift in Republican emphasis, along with Trump’s callous and erractic remarks, made him toxic amongst the established party elite whilst making him unbeatable amongst primary voters. Efforts by more moralistic conservative opponents such as Ted Cruz to brand him as “false conservative”, exposing his flip flops, inconsistencies and former liberal stances on the key issues failed dramatically. Although Cruz did remarkably well in areas with stronger religious identities, such as Utah, not receptive to Trump’s identity politics whistle, as a whole his attempt to defeat him on traditional Conservative lines were unsuccessful. All of this and Trump in general, which is the key message today, outlines a fundamental shift in American society and politics. America is becoming more secular. Religious identity in many areas, is declining. As religious identity declines, its worth in politics does too and at the grassroots it has been replaced with a secular, nationalistic identity politics which has emerged in the form of the Donald Trump candidacy. Only enclaves in the American West such as Utah (who are the most Republican state, yet also the most Anti-trump state) have survived this transition. Let’s explore more.

In demonstrating this point, it must be highlighted that on religious grounds the Republican party have been defeated by Liberals on pretty much every religious “moral issue” which underpinned American Conservative identity (except guns). In these so called “culture wars” the Republicans have lost on abortion, school prayer, secularization, LGBT rights, feminism and gay marriage. Most of these issues were resolved by supreme court decisions but also have substantial popular public support and legitimacy. Secular liberalism has without a doubt gained hegemony in American society, controls the terms of the debate and has defeated religious conservatism. It is not just a political battle, America is becoming less religiously devout, more secular and less Christian. The popular stereotypes of the zealous of Southern baptists are becoming increasingly out of touch with everyday opinion and likewise so have Republican politicians who follow these lines. Hence, the party has slowly shifted towards Middle Class, fiscally Conservative voters as their base.

The grassroots voters, especially those who vote for Trump, are not really uncomfortable with these religious shifts, they aren’t really bothered about Gay Marriage or what not. Rather, with the decline of the American economy and average incomes, the polarization of wealth inequality and the centrification of both major parties towards the Middle Class centre, they have become politically disenfranchised. For these voters, the pursuance of long lost battles over religious issues offers them nothing. As Christianity loses its legitimacy, Christian identity politics becomes worthless. The result is, like in society, that as religious identity declines, secular nationalist identity replaces it. This is a process which took place in Europe centuries ago and persists today, as catholic universalism evolved into a system of highly patriotic Nation states and Empires. It is true to say, American religious identity has had a far longer lifespan than that of Europe, hence many Europeans have often mocked America for the role religion plays in public life.

But now, as stated, America is experiencing a shift and amongst blue collar voters, especially those in Eastern States where religion has declined the most dramatically, or in the Deep South where Christianity has been dealt its strongest blow from the “culture wars” and where there is still a bitter fallout from the civil war years. Resultantly, American religious universalism is being replaced with a discrete sense of American patriotism with a new emphasis rooted in a fear of demographic and cultural change posed by immigration. It lingers on a nostalgia of a time where America was more white, more European and more Western with a more “homogeneous” culture. Of course any serious look at history would render these “memories” mythical at best, as America has always been a melting pot. Nonetheless, in the minds of these people a traditional way of life is perceived as threatened and is also combined with anger against politicians who no longer represent them, pondering to the interests of the Middle Classes or pursue religious quests they no longer believe in. These conditions are what have created the soil which has sprouted the Donald Trump candidacy.

Donald Trump’s campaign has thus been so “invincible” because it has represented both this unassailable political anger and the identity of these voters. He has noticed and seemingly exploited this vacuum with shrewdness and his complete monopoly over it has allowed him to get away with everything an established politician would not be able to do. Whilst Trump’s blatant lack of regard for republican tradition gains him criticism amongst more religious elites, his own voters, secularized, just don’t care. Blinded by disillusion and anger, nor do they care about how offensive he may be in any number of vulgar or unsophisticated comments he makes. He is immune to being attacked from a religious or socially conservative perspective, and although not immune but certainly well armoured against Liberal “politically correct” attacks. As he has thrived on this “establishment” driven opposition, he has exposed an enormous disconnect between the party core and the grassroots, one which has been bubbling for years but he managed to be the final tipping point. He vows to restore this American “identity” they perceive, come “tough” on these growing perception of insecurity and also pledges to end an “unjust” economic system which they don’t benefit from. Of course, its all been done in a way what the whole outside world cringes and stares at with total disbelief.

In conclusion, come November, its likely Trump will be defeated following a campaign that has been very much incompetent and disastrous too. It’s not just about identity and soundbites, Trump doesn’t even know what he’s talking about on most of the key issues anyway and most of his controversial comments have been self-defeating. Nonetheless, don’t expect this shift to go away. The Republican Party needs to reinvent itself to bridge the now glaring gap between it and its constituents, resorting to the religious right won’t fix that. It’s facing an identity crisis, a crisis of appeal and a crisis of purpose. Are the Republican Party representative of small state, social, religious Conservatives or is it a secular nationalist, blood and soil engine for the populist voters of the working class? Neither of them appeal to enough people in a changing and polarizing America to take the Presidency and if Hilary is elected, that will be three democrat presidents to one republican since 1993. When we look at it in this perspective, Trump is not just the cause but is an overwhelming symptom and product in highlighting the decline of American Republicanism. Weakening religious identity, increasing economic divides and anger at politicians are all to blame.

Quick Thoughts on the Presidential Debate


Being in Japan gave me the opportunity to watch the U.S Presidential debate in the morning. It was an event I’d been anticipating to see for weeks, styled as the biggest and most crucial Presidential debate in history. The estimated audience of 100 million viewers clearly supported that notion. For many Americans themselves, there was a large feeling their nations future could be determined from that night’s events- for many others, it was for pure curiosity and even entertainment.

Having watched the debate, I’m no fan of Hilary Clinton, but Donald Trump’s performance was underwhelming, confusing and bizarre even by his own standards. Hilary’s team must have been rubbing their hands with glee as the Republican candidate ventured off into endless, incoherent and irrelevant rambles which amounted to nothing. Even on security issues and foreign policy, areas where Trump has been popular with his supporters, he literally gave the impression that he didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. He clearly didn’t understand the issues, never mind propose answers or solutions.

On the other hand, Hilary, far from being a saint, responded well to the questions, used her career experience shrewdly and landed numerous blows on her opponent. She used clever tactics to brush off Trump’s attacks, easily embodying a sense of superiority over him simply by keeping calm, cool and just laughing or shrugging off the charges he placed on her. I wouldn’t vote for her if I was American, but its fair to say she looked like a President, she sounded like a President and she responded like a President whereas Trump came across just a bumbling fool- You have to wonder how he has got this far already.

In conclusion, if Hilary set out to portray herself as a capable, reliable and “safe set of hands” for the office whilst showing her opponent up for what we stereotype him to be, then she succeeded with this debate. It is of course, only the first of three and Trump still has opportunities to convince people otherwise. Nonetheless, history shows debates alone don’t win Presidential elections, Romney thrashed Obama in 2012, Kerry easily beat Bush in 2004, but where did they end up? It’s still all to play for, but tonight definitely gives the Donald a deeper hole to climb out of and a lot of precedents to reverse before the majority would even think about putting him in the White House.

Sinophobia- The Socially Acceptable Bigotry


In modern western societies, the most common form of “prejudice” elites enjoy to highlight is often described as “Islamophobia”, a term which has gained viral usage in the wake of the European refugee crisis, the rise of ISIS and the spread of terrorism attacks throughout western nations by associated radicals. A so called “Islamophobe” is said to fear the influence of Islam, contends that the Islamic faith is not compatible with Western Values,  accuses adherents of the faith of being terrorist sympathizers and anticipates growing Islamic immigration into the west will led to the imposition of a Sha’ria system on western nations. Regardless of the factual accuracy of what is being said with that, the point is that many feel Islam is misunderstood, misrepresented and many innocent adherents of the faith are targets of unacceptable prejudice. Many westerners enjoy tolerating the faith to signal their own moral virtue, giving its belief system a degree of acceptance that they do not give Christianity, whilst any socially intelligent and shrewd person would avoid openly stereotyping Islam to avoid being placed in the same league as Donald Trump or Britain First.

However, this article isn’t about Islam, but the discussion of apparent Islamophobia makes a good starting point. Although Western elites expect tolerance and fair judgement concerning Islam, that treatment is not applied equally across all cultures. Whilst it is true of course that some cultures receive “better” treatment than Islamic ones and more favorable perceptions, there are others too which receive worse treatment, where people can openly criticize that culture without being slapped with the social stigma or accusations of prejudice which come with talking about Islam. As someone heavily associated with Asia, my main point is to talk about what I call “Sinophobia“- A form of prejudice and crude stereotyping which is socially acceptable amongst westerners and even other Asian Nationalities, sinophobia being, prejudice, stereotyping and fear related to the Chinese (particularly that of “mainland china”- excluding Hong Kong).

Sinophobia has a long history in Britain and few people have made serious attempts to address it. Since people are so obsessed with Islam, I feel given my personal experiences and recent current events, especially those in Hong Kong, the Hinkley Point affair but as well as just political debate  in general, I want to offer a strong rebuke of Sinophobic attitudes in western nations- it is time to stop stereotyping the Chinese as an uncouth, politically malicious, untrustworthy and unreliable culture. I will make it clear, we don’t understand the Chinese, we don’t understand their culture, their system and their society, it is time to stop forcing our values, ideas and way of life on their country in a sense of moral supremacy and treating everything they do as some form of sinister conspiracy or security threat, just like many do not accept that happening in the Islamic world.

What does Sinophobia consist of? It is both cultural and political. Although I acknowledge many people do view the Chinese positively, stereotypical and cynical attitudes, even amongst the educated (this is not something you can write off as “angry white bald men”), are rampant. China is portrayed as an untrustworthy, dodgy, dirty, backwards and disorderly nation where sinister businessmen invest in cheap junk which doesn’t last; everything apparently breaks, falls apart, lunges into disorder, disaster and chaos- “don’t buy anything from there”. Their government is portrayed as systemically evil, brutal, corrupt and without any regard for humanity, eager to export Mao’s revolution all over the world and oppress all of its neighbours.

In the eyes of Hong Kongers (who now like to separate themselves from being “Chinese”), those described as “Chinese” are jettisoned as dirty, unruly, foul, unsophisticated and even criminal. Hong Kong itself is portrayed as the victim of a mainland conspiracy whereby Beijing are continually out to crush the city’s “automomy” and turn it into a 1960s style, cultural revolution backwater; sparking protests, political tensions and even calls for independence. Anyone who dares even sport a positive impression of the Beijing regime with any authority is quickly derided as a collaborator or traitor to the people of the “Fragrant Harbour”. The Beijing government is in the eyes of Hong Kongers, an evil, alien, untrustworthy and brutal system, they’d much rather, ironically, be under British colonialism again.

But even beyond Hong Kong, westerners, more so liberally educated ones, enjoy taking the moral high ground against China. Whilst they marvel at Islamic politics, beliefs and culture, they love picking to bits the Chinese system, blabbing on about “democracy and human rights”, reveling in the endless negative hysterical stories pushed by the western-centric media whilst supporting the childish, red-scare nonsense advocated by Hong Kong activists who are racist towards their own nationality. On this matter, the western media, especially so the BBC, are often packed to the brim with negative, sensationalist and willfully ignorant stories on the matter of China, Hong Kong and Chinese affairs. This happens a lot of times with the Islamic faith, yes and people point out it out, but they seem to get off the hook when it comes to covering China. If Islam is portrayed by sensationalist press as something to be feared, then so is China (just without the counter-argument)

People who are fearful of China do not understand China, period. They view the country through a narrow liberal, western lens. Those who are obsessed with liberal values and claim to be open-minded are not open-minded, because as is often the case with Liberalism, people seem to be incapable of recognizing that other “ways of thinking” or alternative “worldviews” exist or can be tolerated. This becomes the number one methodological problem in perceiving China and the main motivator behind “intellectually” driven Sinophobia. We are not willing to tolerate China on China’s terms only on our own, when we assume that a nation can only be “good” or “successful” if subscribes to westernism, we are unconsciously being racist by asserting that our values are superior or triumphant, which is the same mode of thinking which drove 19th century Imperialism. Thus, many seem to be only willing to accept China if it becomes a liberal, western style democratic state instead of ruling a way which is best suited to Chinese culture- May I remind you, history does not have a good track record when it comes to forcing western systems on societies which do not reflect western ways of thinking (Iraq, anyone?) 

Contrary to popular belief, a nation is not inferior if it does not subscribe to western ideas. Modern China, although outwardly a “Communist State” is in fact very much homogeneous in how it is run. The Chinese Communist Party is not an alien, foreign system which originated in Russia, rather it was constructed in a way very much coherent with Chinese culture. Despite all those people who whinge about “democracy”, Chinese culture and thinking was never about Democracy. Chinese politics has came from a different worldview, a different set of philosophers, a different perception of what is ideal in the world- particularly that stemming from the ancient thinker Confucius. Based on legacies of his thinking and millenniums worth of scholarship of it which has followed, the Chinese see order, stability, harmony, authority and hierarchy as the core values of emphasis in their society, Not western ideas like “democracy” or “human rights”. China has always been about maintaining order and stability- for them the state is not something to be “feared” and challenged (as in the west) but it is a positive thing, like a parent, a guardian- authority is good, not bad. For them,  his is a formula which has succeeded. China has remained together as a civilization state for over 5000 years and created a culture which has been fluently continuous. Although China has been offset by turmoil in the past 200 years, namely due to western interference and ideological upheaval, the dynasties of the Ming and Qing created some of the longest periods of economic and stability in human history.

When you begin to understand these things, you recognize that Chinese civilization is something remarkable rather than to be treat with contempt. Sinophobia is cheap, it’s also ignorant. Although Mao Zedong did embrace a regime which was chaotic and made many mistakes, some which have indeed left scars on the modern nation, China is recovering rapidly from that legacy and has underwent one of the most rapid periods of economic change in human history. Modern China is a peaceful nation, all it is seeking to do is to defend its identity and heritage from western nations who are obsessed with forcing their own systems and way of life upon it. China does not seek “world domination”, it seeks equal footing, sovereignty and equality amongst nations- it is not “aggressively expanding” it has always been consistent and persistent in its territorial claims long before that of its rivals. It is the United States, not China, which is obsessed with throwing its influence, military and weight all over the world, meddling in the external affairs of other countries and attempting to force its way of life on others. America is a new nation, which only emerged in the 18th century, but China is a perpetuating civilization which was reaching glory before Western civilization was even thought of. 

China is to embraced, not feared. It is to be understood, not criticized by a set of values which don’t consider their cultural position. Chinese people are a wonderful people, they have suffered a lot, through poverty, foreign oppression and the cultural chaos inflicted by the low points of Maoism, yet they are friendly, open, accepting, charitable, hard-working and tolerant. If there are bad or distrustworthy ones, then remember you get that everywhere, who’s to say I’m going to trust every person in Sunderland just because they’re of a similar background to my own? Sinophobia is common, it is sadly, left unchallenged, but it must be at every angle, from academia, to conversation, to the media. The Chinese are not a threat and nor is their government.


Thoughts on Shanghai- Chinese New Year

It was delightful to be able to escape the stressful euphoria of Hong Kong study and tour promotions for a brief respite in China’s largest city, Shanghai, for the festive season of Chinese New Year. Never had I realized prior to living in China just how highy regarded Chinese New Year really is; it would be an understatement to describe it as the Eastern equivalent of Christmas because, in retrospect, it seems much more significant in the minds and hearts of the people. It is by no means a tradition “in name only”, an empty shell with its contents hollowed out by the vainities of commercialisation and selfish gain, but it is one which holds its own in having serious social and cultural significance. Chinese New Year is a festival built on the notions of family, home, unity, national identity and ties with ancestors. Despite the opening up of China’s economy and exposure to market influences, those traditions have for now, remained largely intact.

Of course, I took the time in Shanghai not only to experience the feel of these festivals but also to ponder and reflect upon China’s future as a nation, in particular its “rise as a superpower” and its prospects for “taking over America”. Traditionally, I’ve been an advocate of this particular theory, especially having read Martin Jacques’s award winning “When China Rules the World” and of course, there is no better place to reflect on China’s rise than Shanghai itself. It is a city which has experienced a rapid and breathtaking transformation into a seemingly vibrant, booming and thriving metropolis, with a growing glistening skyline which will eventually rival that of Manhattan. I often wondered after my first visit there in January 2015, could Shanghai be the city of the future?

However, my visit co-incided with a dramatic change of impression, I left with a deep abiding cynicism of China’s future. Whilst it can be said that endless negative (and not to mention biased) coverage on China and its economy do not add to my esteem, it was above all what I saw with my own eyes which truly changed my impressions. China may well be rising, but if we are convincing ourselves that this country will overtake America in the next 15 to 20 years, then I think we are riding on false hope. Simple observation alone, not to mention deep analysis, highlights that Chinese society still suffers an overwhelming number of social problems which do not just put it behind America, but any Western nation. Shanghai is a paper tiger, an empty shell. A number of flashy skyscrapers do not erase the drastic poverty and low incomes considerable numbers in the city still experience. Whilst poverty is of course everywhere, you gain the impression that Shanghai has seemingly developed and left many of its own people behind, it’s brought in many super rich businessmen, but what about everyone else? The city is still plagued with “developing world cliques“, such as touts, scammers, rip off merchants and retailers who sell with an aggression as if their very life depended on it. That does not spell prosperity. China may have the 2nd largest economy in the world, but it has more than 4 times as many people as America, average incomes are not lucrative.

But that is just one factor, whilst it would be unfair to call Shanghai “filthy” (and it is spotless compared to my experience in India), there are enormous hygeine and even sanitation problems persisting. In addition, there are also considerable cultural problems; the scars caused by the insanity of the cultural revolution and Maoism ride deep in the lives of the people, things which contributed to the uttermost destruction of all social order and cohesion in the 1960s. The experience of living in Hong Kong provides a startling contrast to it all, you truly realize what China is missing, you also come to the recognition of what China could have become had history itself taken a difference course. Whilst I am no fan at all of Hong Kong’s arrogance and bare faced snobbery towards the mainland Chinese, it is very easy to see how these prejudices have been developed, persisted and entrenched over the years.

Nonetheless, I love Shanghai and would truly recommend anyone visits, but the message is clear: China has further to go to obtain its leading role than meets the eye. It is not a “first world nation”, it is not close to becoming one. It sits deep in the memories of poverty, backwardness and disorder. It is light years behind America, education, science, technology, society, hygeine and infrastructure; it is only considered “close” because it has managed to establish an economy somewhat close to it, yet even then, how many times do you hear people and the media cast doubt upon the prospects of that? Every day. Yet given where China is now and where it was 30 years ago, the CCP have done a fantastic job despite the horrible conditions in which Deng Xiaoping inherited from Chairman Mao.