Thursday, April 23, 2020

None of us can escape our past

During these terrible days as COVID19 locks down the world, I have been thinking a lot about what may cause some of those in power to react in the often disturbing ways they do when faced with dealing with the pandemic decimating their countries.  These thoughts have been triggered by a comment I read today by Philippe Sands in the Guardian newspaper who was discussing his latest book, The Ratline: Love, Lies and Justice on the Trail of a Nazi Fugitive.  He writes that he was at the International Court of Justice listening to Aung San Suu Kyi trying to justify the Myanmar military’s actions against the Rohingya community, and asks, “How could she not see the facts as others did?” Answering himself, he wonders whether the reason may lie in her relationship to her father, the previous ruler.  He then transfers this thought to the son of the man who was in charge of the extermination of the Jews in Poland during the war, including members of his own family, and wonders whether this son has learnt to accept his father’s appalling actions as “a way of being able to live, a means of survival”.

This made me think of Donald Trump, as I tried to apply this understanding to his inability to empathize in any way with another human being.  I then tried to relate my thoughts to my knowledge of the five elements.  I have always believed that Aung San Suu Kyi is of the Metal element, and can see that her need to maintain her father’s legacy, possibly added to the effects of years of enforced isolation, may indeed be her “way of being able to live, a means of survival” that somebody not subject to Metal’s yearning for an absent father may be unable to understand.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, is, I think, of the Wood element, at the opposite point of the five element circle.  Do his words and actions show a Wood element which is pathologically out of balance?  We know that Wood is the child among the five elements, and it is significant that a speech expert described Trump’s way of talking as “oddly adolescent”.  There is definitely something frighteningly childish about him.  Perhaps this can be traced back to a childhood in which his mother apparently played little part, his brother saying that the children rarely saw their mother.  Since we know the emotion associated with the Wood element is anger, it is not surprising, therefore, that this is the emotional atmosphere in which Trump feels most at home, quite happily stoking up anger in all who surround him, like a child indulging in tantrums.  It is terrifying that somebody with more power than anybody else in the world should be the least able to exercise any self-control. 

But perhaps, like the other two examples I mentioned, Aung San Suu Kyi and the son of the prominent Nazi, this is his “only way of being able to live, a means of survival”.  And perhaps this applies to us, too, for how each of us lives our life can indeed be said to be our only way of being alive, and a means of survival, though we hope with less extreme consequences for the people around us.

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