Day 9: The Dream in the Dragon's Mouth
It has been hard this week not to get deeply political. I have the instincts, I have the form and I share the difficulty to understand the elevation of Trump to a level of power that matches his own demagoguery. I share the fear of those who aren't motivated by his principles and won't benefit from the reflected glow of his self-interest.
Beyond Trump himself and the huge personality that has unquestionable resonance with so many - enough to see him elected, what concerns me also is the elevation of a particular idea of what business is.
Looking back across the entertainment space for the past ten years, politics and business have been given vastly different platforms and PR. I only need to look at my own sectors of factual and drama entertainment. The hard edged, no compromise, shoot from the hip business exec has seen their approach turned into shows like the apprentice, where Trump and Lord Sugar in the UK are elevated to the status of gods, sitting, empowered by their wealth, ready to grant the wishes of a would-be candidate if they will only go far enough, bow low enough, give in to the program of ritual humiliation for the entertainment of those of us who cringe at their antics.
TV is full of shows about fixers. Smart, well dressed business people who teleport into failing family firms and dispense the tough love needed to 'turn things around'. They are painted as strong, wealthy, and because of those traits, allowed to behave however they want, whether in firing or insulting someone, throwing a foul mouthed rant like millionaire British chef Gordon Ramsay.
Meanwhile, politicians have endured an age of dystopia. The soaring trumpets of Sorkin's West Wing in which public service was presented as something aspirational, even noble have been replaced by the mournful militaristic moan of the House of Cards introduction, and the opening credits of Washington slowly disappearing into the teeth of darkness. Where every character is compromised and even the show's white knights have dark secrets that prove their undoing when manipulated by one who is darker still.
Show after show, relentless media barrages and a poisonous resistance to the act of government even by its own elected officials who crushed the life out of Obama's hope and change with an unwavering, scorched earth, you shall not pass ideology of extreme tea party Republicanism.
And yet... I love House of Cards. I fantasise about building an evil scheme for global domination and enacting it with my future evil schemestress wife. Why? Because Trump and those like him teach us that the rules are for losers. The rules only apply to people who can't buy their way out of trouble, out of assault charges or law suits, into office. And in a world where following the rules is dumb, what could be dumber than being a legislator - being the person that makes the dumb rules.
I say this as someone who is probably a literal card carrying member of the liberal elite. While I wear many hats, the card that hangs around my neck is that of a University Lecturer. The arguments that have been resonating with me this week are those form people who say there is more to life than the Art of the Deal, than making sure that America has the biggest army, the most punitive trade deals with its partners, that it protects its own markets from the very immigration that built the country into what it is - one of the most diverse in the world.
In Britain, we always understood the American Dream to be about getting rich. Trump's version of it seems to offer a particularly benevolent night's sleep to those already in positions of corporate power. Actually spending time in America, getting to know Americans, even falling hard for one, I see it as a gateway, as a contract not just with those born in the 50 states but with the world, that anyone with the right values, unafraid of hard work can come to the USA and make something of themselves, a life, a family, a contribution. That is the dream for me, not the dollars that may come with it.
So a new maxim for a new dawn. Beware the dragon who comes waving your flag. He might be strong, ruthless and look very different to the kings you've had before. But dragons don't wave flags for long. In the end, dragons are true to their own self interested nature.
It is their nature to burn.