If you have come this far, it suggests to me that you may be as concerned as I am about the direction in which our country is moving. We are in the midst of not only a political crisis, but also a moral one that is a clear and present danger to our security and freedom. The purpose of this book is to confront that crisis squarely and honestly, and then to chart a way forward that reflects the original intent of the Founders and guarantees our collective security into the future.
But you are probably asking yourself what gives this author the right to put forward such a book? After all, he was not born an American citizen and, apart from a degree in the subject earned many years ago, has no history of political writing in this country. He was a CEO and is now a management consultant, for God’s sake! How does that qualify him to tell us how society and the country should be run?
Over the course of my life, I have lived and worked in some of the freest countries in the world but also some of the most repressive. I have seen with my own eyes the depravities of psychopathic autocrats and the effects of complicity in the silence of those who look the other way in order to further their own interests.
In the early 1970s I was a young teacher in Nairobi. It was only many years later that I discovered that my boss was the President’s personal executioner. Scores of people, some of them leading opposition politicians, were taken to the Ngong Hills outside Nairobi and “disappeared”.
In the 1980s, my family was subject to constant harassment by the South African Secret Police. Our house was bugged, our phone was bugged and we were followed everywhere we went. My father, a prominent anti-apartheid leader, was arrested by these same police for his activities. In a radio interview after my dad’s death many years later, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said of him “he was a very brave man – he could have been killed”. And, indeed, he received many death threats.
Today, all over the world, we are seeing this type of repression and autocratic populism rearing its head yet again in places like Hungary, Russia, China, Italy, Germany and even the UK. And now, it has reached the shores of our very own United States. And it’s time to put a stop to it. For The People charts a course away from authoritarianism and towards a society more akin to that which our Founders originally envisaged.
I hope you will buy and read the book. But why not sample it first? Chapter One is below. Thank you!
AMERICA IN AN EXCEPTIONAL CRISIS
America has always held itself up to be exceptional. And, in many ways, it is. America for two centuries has been a land of ingenuity, invention, and dynamism, a country where technology, industry, culture, and the arts have combined to produce a place unlike any other on this planet.
Politically, America has also been a beacon for the concept of democracy, albeit one that is wrapped in a very Roman construct of the “republic.” Here the media is free and the people are protected by a constitution that, among other things, sanctifies freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of worship, and freedom from authoritarian overreach in the form of search. The very word “freedom” is baked into the central idea of “these United States,” even if its practice right from the beginning was rather selective. It is a land where, theoretically, people are limited only by their own imaginations and where opportunity is rife. Its people are proud of this America, as they should be, and are proud to be called patriots.
But the reality is that America today is broken. Worse than that, it is exceptionalism gone haywire. The political system crafted by the Founding Fathers has mutated into a governmental structure overrun by special interests and their money, which, in its turn, acts like the poison of a very virulent insect and renders politicians incapable of acting in the best interests of both their constituents and the country as a whole. The system that was supposed to balance power between governmental institutions has become one of stasis—the inability of government to actually govern. The country is divided as never before into opposing camps succored by social media bubbles in which people only converse with and receive ideas from those similar in outlook to themselves. A Congress that, at the House level, has been so gerrymandered as to make the concept of representative government laughable is rendered incapable of dealing with the nation’s most pressing issues. And the public, so fed up with politics as usual, has elected—via a very broken electoral college construct—a president who has shown himself to be a narcissistic incompetent who has single-handedly ceded America’s leadership on the world stage to the Chinese and the Russians.
As wealth inequality has spiraled out of control—exacerbated by tax reform that blatantly favors the rich—and social mobility has dried up, poverty and racial inequality have persisted even as unemployment statistics have trended downward. Persistent, chronic problems that uniquely plague American society, such as mass shootings in schools or public arenas, remain unaddressed, even as the electorate demands reform. Americans are ten times more likely to be killed by guns than are citizens of other developed countries and yet this is supposed to be taken as normal, and demands for reform are met with hysterical responses from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and inaction by politicians who are in its pockets.
Other persistent, chronic problems are met with the same inability—or, worse, hostility—to deal with them. Consider, for instance, lack of access to health care due to exorbitant insurance rates or lack of insurance. When the Obama administration tried to deal with this issue (in a very American way), it was howled down as “socialism” and became the focus of innumerable Republican attempts to sink it. The fact that the USA spends three times as much on health care as other developed nations but with outcomes that woefully lag behind them? Ignored. Or that we have a secondary education system that is completely broken and also has outcomes well below those of our competitors? Ignored. Or that our social safety net is under constant attack by those who need to finance tax breaks for the wealthy? Ignored. And now, how about an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) where the man initially appointed by Trump to run it made no bones about his desire to destroy it and a president who clearly has no patience for environmental stewardship?
Amidst all of this, great swaths of the population get left behind. After the Civil War, newly freed African-Americans possessed 0.5 percent of the wealth of the nation. Today, African-Americans own between 1 percent and 2 percent of the national wealth. In 2010, the median wealth of black families in the United States was $3,900, while that of their white counterparts was $97,000. Yet there are also white families all across “flyover” America who themselves are suffering as automation and offshoring take away their manufacturing jobs and leave them living in shells that were formerly their towns and communities. In both black and white communities faced with infrastructural decay and poverty, crime persists and is fed by the opiate of drugs—whether they be cocaine, heroin, meth, or prescription opioids. This leads to an increasing effort on the part of law enforcement to maintain control and, in some places, the militarization of police. Very quickly, there is a lack of social discourse, a weakening of trust in social and governmental institutions, and increasingly virulent outbreaks of “other-ism.”
“Other-ism,” at its simplest, is the attribution of blame to others in society, who appear different to you, for all the ills that you yourself suffer. Who these “others” are has varied over the course of American history. In the early days of the colonies, they were the indigenous Americans. In the Jim Crow era, they were African-Americans. Then there were the Italians, Greeks, Eastern Europeans, Chinese, Japanese, and the bogeymen of them all, the Jews. Today, it is Muslims, Middle Easterners, South Asians, and—yes—the Jews.
The issue with “other-ism” is not so much that it exists. Sad to say, there will always be those who wish to pin the blame for their ills, real or imagined, on those who are different than they are. There will always be those who will follow the leadership of some crackpot white supremacist or cult leader. No, the real issue with “other-ism” is when it is used by mainstream politicians either to gain power or to cover up their own incompetence or venality. When that happens, “other-ism” awakens deep-seated, vague prejudices that allow people to turn aside from societal norms, or even their own affirmed values, in a desperate attempt to make themselves heard. That in turn can lead to quiet acquiescence from other political leaders and, ultimately, the population at large. And, when that happens, “other-ism” becomes very dangerous indeed.
For those with historical memory, we saw this in Germany and Italy in the 1930s and we see it in the long-running conflicts in the Middle East and in tribal conflicts in Africa (think of the 1994 massacres in Rwanda, for example). We also see it in the rise of non-State actors such as ISIS, which is entirely based on “other-ism.” And now it is right here on our own doorstep in America. From the outset, Donald Trump used “other-ism” to anchor his campaign, talking about criminal, rapist Mexicans and the expulsion of Muslims and, in so doing, calling out the demons in those feeling left behind. No wonder he had difficulty in fully condemning the white supremacists involved in the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, since these were the very people fanning the flames of the fire he had started. That, and his blatant misogyny, would have been bad enough. But then a pivotal event happened: Evangelical Christians decided to turn a blind eye to all of this in order to further their own political agenda. Once they did this, they gave the perfect political cover to Republicans in Congress to do the same: hold their noses in the name of furthering their agenda. And so, acquiescence started to take hold. The rot set in and America is at war with itself, in danger of jettisoning its institutions, political processes, and values and building an economic (and real) wall around itself as it abandons its world leadership position and blames everyone else for its woes.
The net—and very ironic—result of all this is that, in the midst of an economic boom, America is filled with anger and hate, families avoid politics at all costs at the Thanksgiving table, and political and social discourse has ground to a halt. Worse, the United States of America is now rated as a “flawed democracy” and the think tank Freedom House talks of democracy worldwide facing its “most serious crisis in decades” as a result.
In a nutshell, America has become a country lacking in both physical and psychological security, and the world has become more insecure as a result. And insecurity is a clear and present danger to world peace and stability.