Many thanks to JLH for translating this op-ed from the influential Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung:
by Konrad Paul Liessmann
January 23, 2018
The outstanding benefits of Trump doubtless include a new unity in the world. He has become a medium of perception.
A year after Donald Trump became president of the USA, it is time to summarize — not just about his political successes and failures, but also about what Trump, often unintentionally, has contributed to the emotional conditions and intellectual discourse of our time. The outstanding benefits of Trump include a new unity in the world. It is really all against one. Commentary on him has been unanimously negative. The arc of negative reaction to him stretches from Right to Left. Differentiated reports or judgments are scarce. It is the common understanding that he is a catastrophe for the USA and the world, cognitively and morally insufficient. An intellectually limited racist and sexist is the most powerful man in the world.
This knowledge shared by almost everyone not only fosters a strong “we” feeling, but also a profoundly satisfying feeling of superiority. With the picture of Trump the media paints and the revelations from the inner life of the white House we encounter daily, anyone can feel infinitely superior to the American president — more sensitive, more educated, more intelligent, more respectable, more competent and more moral. And not to be forgotten — in dealing with Trump, we become excellent psychologists, who are capable of remotely diagnosing personality disorders, narcissism, infantilism and megalomania.
This feeling of superiority, however, prevents us from recognizing that Trump is equipped to give us a critical view of our revered modern world. Even people who have considered truth to be relative, reality to be a construction and science to be a phallogocentric maneuver by white men, are discovering — thanks to Trump — their love of objective facts. Even people for whom directness and authenticity have been sacred are recognizing, thanks to Trump, what these ideals actually mean, and — after a little self control — begin to yearn for simulated empathy and diplomatic pretense. Even people who saw in the new media the epitome of progress, must admit that the world can be neither understood nor governed by means of Twitter or television. After years of internet euphoria, thanks to Trump, determining that someone does not read books has again become a reproach.
Conversely, Trump makes it possible for many assumptions and convictions lurking in our unconscious, courtesy of prevailing moral and political standards, to be brought into the light of day. The mistrust intellectuals have for the people and for democracy can now be openly articulated. After Trump’s election victory, some are wondering whether the leftist focus on the needs of capricious minorities was not overdone, and are turning back to the needs of the working class.
Donald Trump acts as a cynic who shakes our presumed truths and moral certainties, not through contemplation, but through action. He has become a medium of recognition. Whether such a stunning fellow ought to be thanked for that is an open question. But thinking about that, instead of reflexively joining the chorus of the outraged, could be rewarding.
Konrad Paul Liessmann, of the University of Vienna, is professor for methods of communicating philosophy and ethics. There is no question that is alien to his columns.
|1.||The privileging of masculinity in the use of speech, writing or modes of thought; phallocentrism expressed through language.