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‘Doesn’t Even Recall What Happened Yesterday’!

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PSYCHOLOGIST DAN McADAMS ON  DONALD TRUMP . . . 

by Selvam Canagaratna

“We forget because we must / And not because we will.”

– Matthew Arnold, Empedocles on Etna, and Other Poems (1852)

Many of the United States and the world’s leading mental health experts have concluded that Donald Trump is mentally unwell, pathological, dangerous and perhaps even a sociopath or a psychopath, writes Chauncey DeVega, Salon’s staff writer on politics.   

This conclusion, he notes, was reached after more than four years of observing Trump’s public behaviour. Other mental health professionals, most notably the President’s niece, Mary Trump, who is a psychologist, as well as Dr. Justin Frank (author of Trump on the Couch) have reached the same conclusion after expertly observing Trump’s behaviour for years or decades. 

After being hospitalized several weeks ago for COVID treatment, during which he was administered an experimental cocktail of drugs, Trump has behaved in an even more erratic and aberrant manner. 

Donald Trump’s mind and mental health are like the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl. These last days before Election Day are a countdown for a man who, if he is defeated, will experience a meltdown that spreads his poison all over the world.

As documented by The Washington Post, Trump has lied more than 20,000 times while President. In these last few weeks, his lies have become more frequent and outrageous. 

Trump now claims he has somehow defeated the coronavirus pandemic

. In reality, the United States is falling deeper into a season of death. The virus is spreading largely unchecked, with more than 227,000 people dead in total and upwards of 70,000 new cases each day.

During his second and final presidential debate with Joe Biden, Trump sounded remarkably callous and cruel in his discussions of the death and suffering caused by his negligence and incompetence during the pandemic.

Because fueling his ego, grandiosity and malignant narcissism are more important than the lives of others, Trump continues to host rallies where his followers gather unmasked by the thousands. Public health experts have now directly tied Trump’s events to the spread of the virus and resulting illnesses and deaths. Trumpism literally is a death cult; his followers are human biological weapons.

Last week, in Omaha, Nebraska, Trump again showed that he does not care about the health and safety of his followers. Many of Trump’s supporters were left behind after a rally at an airfield in freezing temperatures when the buses they were promised did not appear. Many people were forced to walk several miles from the rally site back to their vehicles, and dozens of them required medical attention.  

But for all of Donald Trump’s evident mental pathologies, could it be that he is even more dangerous than previously understood? That’s the contention of Dan McAdams, who is the Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Psychology and a professor of education and social policy at Northwestern University. He is the author of almost 300 articles and chapters as well as seven books, including The Art and Science of Personality Development and The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By.

McAdams’ work has been featured in leading media outlets such as the New York Times, the New Yorker, The Atlantic, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, NPR, CNN and elsewhere. His most recent book is The Strange Case of Donald J. Trump: A Psychological Reckoning.

In it he warns that Donald Trump’s greatest threat is caused by the fact that he exists only in the present moment, a man without a future or a past who lacks any sense of a life narrative, story or ethics beyond winning at all costs. This aspect of Donald Trump is the greatest threat to the country and the world.

McAdams also cautions that Donald Trump is a unique and strange person who defies any singular category of mental diagnosis, and shares his concern that leaders like Donald Trump inevitably bring ruin and destruction to the countries they lead. 

For the first time here in America we have a full-blooded authoritarian leader. This has happened in other countries at other times, most notably the 1930s in Italy and Germany, of course. But for Americans this was all news. I’ve spent several years trying to understand Donald Trump using the standard vocabulary, nomenclature, ideas and theories from psychological science to make sense of him and his life. But they have only proved somewhat helpful in that quest.

I end up just being flummoxed by the strangeness of the man. I believe that he does not neatly fit the categories. He’s not the typical malignant narcissist. He’s unbelievably disagreeable, but in ways that nobody would ever fathom. There are so many things about Donald Trump that are peculiar. My book is entitled The Strange Case of Donald J. Trump. I cannot help but to emphasize the strangeness of Donald Trump — it is as if he is a type of one-off when it comes to human nature.

Even at this point, there are many millions of Americans who are still in shock that Trump even became President. The 50% or so of the American populace who are strongly opposed to Donald Trump never got over election night 2016. It was a traumatic experience. It was an event that people have flashbacks over. People are in therapy about what happened that night.

Many people keep hoping against hope that somehow it is all going to go away — that Trump’s time in office is this weird anomaly that happened to American culture and somehow we are going to go back to some type of pre-Trump normal. I do not believe things will be the same again in this country. What many Americans will never get over is the feeling that this is not the country they thought they lived in before Trump was elected.

There is this repeated cycle of hope and despair with America and the Age of Trump. People are hopeful that some scandal, or his crimes against democracy and the country, will stop him. But that never happens. If anything, impeachment and every revelation of his wrongdoing has made him stronger. What does that cycle of ups and downs, hope and disappointment, do to people?

Going back to the 1970s, Donald Trump wins when he wears people out. Trump’s modus operandi has always been to be more persistent, to hang in there and to run out the clock. As President he tried to win by outlasting everyone else. He did this in the real estate market. He did this to his creditors in the 1990s.

Trump has shown unlimited energy to promote himself. I do not believe that there is anyone else on the planet with that much self-promoting energy.

Every day, Donald Trump he is fighting what he considers to be a battle of survival, and then he either wins or loses. Trump has been like that his whole life. Trump wakes up the next day and starts all over again with that behaviour. Trump does not even remember what happened yesterday. Other human beings remember what happened on Monday when it is Tuesday. As human beings we develop long-term narratives about how our lives work. But not Mr. Trump. For him it is new every day.

It is not a cognitive deficit. Trump has always behaved that way. He’s always had this tremendous ability to just forget about the past and to deal with the present moment. That is part of what makes Trump so powerful in the minds of his supporters. He’s not hiding anything. He’s not thinking about yesterday. He’s not worried about two weeks from now. He looks at the crowd, and he’s 100% all there in the moment.  

Outside observers often think, “Oh my God, there is something behind all of that performance and behavior!” The answer is no. Trump is always what we see. He is Donald Trump playing “Donald Trump” all the time.

Donald Trump is totally authentic as he fakes his way through the role. Trump is a perfectly authentic fake. There is nothing behind the mask. Trump has boundless energy because he does not have to worry about yesterday or tomorrow.

What does Trump’s living in the “forever present” with no thought for the future or the past do to a country in terms of truth, reality and decision-making more generally?

It dooms a democracy. It dooms a culture and the broader development and health of a culture. Democracy and society depend on people taking some sort of long-term view. If there is no long-term vision or understanding of reality, then what works for such a person like Donald Trump is whatever he or she needs at that moment to win the fight.

For example, on a given Monday Trump will say, “Nancy Pelosi is the worst person on the planet.” On Wednesday, it is a totally different fight. He does not have any memory of Monday and thus he will then say, “Well, you know what, Nancy and I were getting along today.” And on Friday, Donald Trump is in another place. It is all moment to moment.

Other people do not live that way. It is not sustainable. To survive long-term a people, a nation, cannot have leaders who behave like Donald Trump. 


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Islamophobia and the threat to democratic development

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There’s an ill more dangerous and pervasive than the Coronavirus that’s currently sweeping Sri Lanka. That is the fear to express one’s convictions. Across the public sector of the country in particular many persons holding high office are stringently regulating and controlling the voices of their consciences and this bodes ill for all and the country.

The corrupting impact of fear was discussed in this column a couple of weeks ago when dealing with the military coup in Myanmar. It stands to the enduring credit of ousted Myanmarese Head of Government Aung San Suu Kyi that she, perhaps for the first time in the history of modern political thought, singled out fear, and not power, as the principal cause of corruption within the individual; powerful or otherwise.

To be sure, power corrupts but the corrupting impact of fear is graver and more devastating. For instance, the fear in a person holding ministerial office or in a senior public sector official, that he would lose position and power as a result of speaking out his convictions and sincere beliefs on matters of the first importance, would lead to a country’s ills going unaddressed and uncorrected.

Besides, the individual concerned would be devaluing himself in the eyes of all irrevocably and revealing himself to be a person who would be willing to compromise his moral integrity for petty worldly gain or a ‘mess of pottage’. This happens all the while in Lankan public life. Some of those who have wielded and are wielding immense power in Sri Lanka leave very much to be desired from these standards.

It could be said that fear has prevented Sri Lanka from growing in every vital respect over the decades and has earned for itself the notoriety of being a directionless country.

All these ills and more are contained in the current controversy in Sri Lanka over the disposal of the bodies of Covid victims, for example. The Sri Lankan polity has no choice but to abide by scientific advice on this question. Since authorities of the standing of even the WHO have declared that the burial of the bodies of those dying of Covid could not prove to be injurious to the wider public, the Sri Lankan health authorities could go ahead and sanction the burying of the bodies concerned. What’s preventing the local authorities from taking this course since they claim to be on the side of science? Who or what are they fearing? This is the issue that’s crying out to be probed and answered.

Considering the need for absolute truthfulness and honesty on the part of all relevant persons and quarters in matters such as these, the latter have no choice but to resign from their positions if they are prevented from following the dictates of their consciences. If they are firmly convinced that burials could bring no harm, they are obliged to take up the position that burials should be allowed.

If any ‘higher authority’ is preventing them from allowing burials, our ministers and officials are conscience-bound to renounce their positions in protest, rather than behave compromisingly and engage in ‘double think’ and ‘double talk’. By adopting the latter course they are helping none but keeping the country in a state of chronic uncertainty, which is a handy recipe for social instabiliy and division.

In the Sri Lankan context, the failure on the part of the quarters that matter to follow scientific advice on the burials question could result in the aggravation of Islamophobia, or hatred of the practitioners of Islam, in the country. Sri Lanka could do without this latter phobia and hatred on account of its implications for national stability and development. The 30 year war against separatist forces was all about the prevention by military means of ‘nation-breaking’. The disastrous results for Sri Lanka from this war are continuing to weigh it down and are part of the international offensive against Sri Lanka in the UNHCR.

However, Islamophobia is an almost world wide phenomenon. It was greatly strengthened during Donald Trump’s presidential tenure in the US. While in office Trump resorted to the divisive ruling strategy of quite a few populist authoritarian rulers of the South. Essentially, the manoeuvre is to divide and rule by pandering to the racial prejudices of majority communities.

It has happened continually in Sri Lanka. In the initial post-independence years and for several decades after, it was a case of some populist politicians of the South whipping-up anti-Tamil sentiments. Some Tamil politicians did likewise in respect of the majority community. No doubt, both such quarters have done Sri Lanka immeasurable harm. By failing to follow scientific advice on the burial question and by not doing what is right, Sri Lanka’s current authorities are opening themselves to the charge that they are pandering to religious extremists among the majority community.

The murderous, destructive course of action adopted by some extremist sections among Muslim communities world wide, including of course Sri Lanka, has not earned the condemnation it deserves from moderate Muslims who make-up the preponderant majority in the Muslim community. It is up to moderate opinion in the latter collectivity to come out more strongly and persuasively against religious extremists in their midst. It will prove to have a cementing and unifying impact among communities.

It is not sufficiently appreciated by governments in the global South in particular that by voicing for religious and racial unity and by working consistently towards it, they would be strengthening democratic development, which is an essential condition for a country’s growth in all senses.

A ‘divided house’ is doomed to fall; this is the lesson of history. ‘National security’ cannot be had without human security and peaceful living among communities is central to the latter. There cannot be any ‘double talk’ or ‘politically correct’ opinions on this question. Truth and falsehood are the only valid categories of thought and speech.

Those in authority everywhere claiming to be democratic need to adopt a scientific outlook on this issue as well. Studies conducted on plural societies in South Asia, for example, reveal that the promotion of friendly, cordial ties among communities invariably brings about healing among estranged groups and produces social peace. This is the truth that is waiting to be acted upon.

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Pakistan’s love of Sri Lanka

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By Sanjeewa Jayaweera

It was on 3rd January 1972 that our family arrived in Karachi from Moscow. Our departure from Moscow had been delayed for a few weeks due to the military confrontation between Pakistan and India. It ended on 16th December 1971. After that, international flights were not permitted for some time.

The contrast between Moscow and Karachi was unbelievable. First and foremost, Moscow’s temperature was near minus 40 degrees centigrade, while in Karachi, it was sunny and a warm 28 degrees centigrade. However, what struck us most was the extreme warmth with which the airport authorities greeted our family. As my father was a diplomat, we were quickly ushered to the airport’s VIP Lounge. We were in transit on our way to Rawalpindi, the airport serving the capital of Islamabad.

We quickly realized that the word “we are from Sri Lanka” opened all doors just as saying “open sesame” gained entry to Aladdin’s cave! The broad smile, extreme courtesy, and genuine warmth we received from the Pakistani people were unbelievable.

This was all to do with Mrs Sirima Bandaranaike’s decision to allow Pakistani aircraft to land in Colombo to refuel on the way to Dhaka in East Pakistan during the military confrontation between Pakistan and India. It was a brave decision by Mrs Bandaranaike (Mrs B), and the successive governments and Sri Lanka people are still enjoying the fruits of it. Pakistan has been a steadfast and loyal supporter of our country. They have come to our assistance time and again in times of great need when many have turned their back on us. They have indeed been an “all-weather” friend of our country.

Getting back to 1972, I was an early beneficiary of Pakistani people’s love for Sri Lankans. I failed the entrance exam to gain entry to the only English medium school in Islamabad! However, when I met the Principal, along with my father, he said, “Sanjeewa, although you failed the entrance exam, I will this time make an exception as Sri Lankans are our dear friends.” After that, the joke around the family dinner table was that I owed my education in Pakistan to Mrs B!

At school, my brother and I were extended a warm welcome and always greeted “our good friends from Sri Lanka.” I felt when playing cricket for our college; our runs were cheered more loudly than of others.

One particular incident that I remember well was when the Embassy received a telex from the Foreign inistry. It requested that our High Commissioner seek an immediate meeting with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Zulifikar Ali Bhutto (ZB), and convey a message from Mrs B. The message requested that an urgent shipment of rice be dispatched to Sri Lanka as there would be an imminent rice shortage. As the Ambassador was not in the station, the responsibility devolved on my father.

It usually takes about a week or more to get an audience with the Prime Minister (PM) of a foreign country due to their busy schedule. However, given the urgency, my father spoke to the Foreign Ministry’s Permanent Sectary, who fortunately was our neighbour and sought an urgent appointment. My father received a call from the PM’s secretary around 10 P.M asking him to come over to the PM’s residence. My father met ZB around midnight. ZB was about to retire to bed and, as such, was in his pyjamas and gown enjoying a cigar! He had greeted my father and had asked, “Mr Jayaweera, what can we do for great friend Madam Bandaranaike?. My father conveyed the message from Colombo and quietly mentioned that there would be riots in the country if there is no rice!

ZB had immediately got the Food Commissioner of Pakistan on the line and said, “I want a shipload of rice to be in Colombo within the next 72 hours!” The Food Commissioner reverted within a few minutes, saying that nothing was available and the last export shipment had left the port only a few hours ago to another country. ZB had instructed to turn the ship around and send it to Colombo. This despite protests from the Food Commissioner about terms and conditions of the Letter of Credit prohibiting non-delivery. Sri Lanka got its delivery of rice!

The next was the visit of Mrs B to Pakistan. On arrival in Rawalpindi airport, she was given a hero’s welcome, which Pakistan had previously only offered to President Gaddafi of Libya, who financially backed Pakistan with his oil money. That day, I missed school and accompanied my parents to the airport. On our way, we witnessed thousands of people had gathered by the roadside to welcome Mrs B.

When we walked to the airport’s tarmac, thousands of people were standing in temporary stands waving Sri Lanka and Pakistan flags and chanting “Sri Lanka Pakistan Zindabad.” The noise emanating from the crowd was as loud and passionate as the cheering that the Pakistani cricket team received during a test match. It was electric!

I believe she was only the second head of state given the privilege of addressing both assemblies of Parliament. The other being Gaddafi. There was genuine affection from Mrs B amongst the people of Pakistan.

I always remember the indefatigable efforts of Mr Abdul Haffez Kardar, a cabinet minister and the President of the Pakistan Cricket Board. From around 1973 onwards, he passionately championed Sri Lanka’s cause to be admitted as a full member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and granted test status. Every year, he would propose at the ICC’s annual meeting, but England and Australia’s veto kept us out until 1981.

I always felt that our Cricket Board made a mistake by not inviting Pakistan to play our inaugural test match. We should have appreciated Mr Kardar and Pakistan’s efforts. In 1974 the Pakistan board invited our team for a tour involving three test matches and a few first-class games. Most of those who played in our first test match was part of that tour, and no doubt gained significant exposure playing against a highly talented Pakistani team.

Several Pakistani greats were part of the Pakistan and India team that played a match soon after the Central Bank bomb in Colombo to prove that it was safe to play cricket in Colombo. It was a magnificent gesture by both Pakistan and India. Our greatest cricket triumph was in Pakistan when we won the World Cup in 1996. I am sure the players and those who watched the match on TV will remember the passionate support our team received that night from the Pakistani crowd. It was like playing at home!

I also recall reading about how the Pakistani government air freighted several Multi Barrell artillery guns and ammunition to Sri Lanka when the A rmy camp in Jaffna was under severe threat from the LTTE. This was even more important than the shipload of rice that ZB sent. This was crucial as most other countries refused to sell arms to our country during the war.

Time and again, Pakistan has steadfastly supported our country’s cause at the UNHCR. No doubt this year, too, their diplomats will work tirelessly to assist our country.

We extend a warm welcome to Mr Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan. He is a truly inspirational individual who was undoubtedly an excellent cricketer. Since retirement from cricket, he has decided to get involved in politics, and after several years of patiently building up his support base, he won the last parliamentary elections. I hope that just as much as he galvanized Sri Lankan cricketers, his political journey would act as a catalyst for people like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene to get involved in politics. Cricket has been called a “gentleman’s game.” Whilst politics is far from it!.

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Covid-19 health rules disregarded at entertainment venues?

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Believe me, seeing certain videos, on social media, depicting action, on the dance floor, at some of these entertainment venues, got me wondering whether this Coronavirus pandemic is REAL!

To those having a good time, at these particular venues, and, I guess, the management, as well, what the world is experiencing now doesn’t seem to be their concerned.

Obviously, such irresponsible behaviour could create more problems for those who are battling to halt the spread of Covid-19, and the new viriant of Covid, in our part of the world.

The videos, on display, on social media, show certain venues, packed to capacity – with hardly anyone wearing a mask, and social distancing…only a dream..

How can one think of social distancing while gyrating, on a dance floor, that is over crowded!

If this trend continues, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Coronavirus makes its presence felt…at such venues.

And, then, what happens to the entertainment scene, and those involved in this field, especially the musicians? No work, whatsoever!

Lots of countries have closed nightclubs, and venues, where people gather, in order to curtail the spread of this deadly virus that has already claimed the lives of thousands.

Thailand did it and the country is still having lots of restrictions, where entertainment is concerned, and that is probably the reason why Thailand has been able to control the spread of the Coronavirus.

With a population of over 69 million, they have had (so far), a little over 25,000 cases, and 83 deaths, while we, with a population of around 21 million, have over 80,000 cases, and more than 450 deaths.

I’m not saying we should do away with entertainment – totally – but we need to follow a format, connected with the ‘new normal,’ where masks and social distancing are mandatory requirements at these venues. And, dancing, I believe, should be banned, at least temporarily, as one can’t maintain the required social distance, while on the dance floor, especially after drinks.

Police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana keeps emphasising, on TV, radio, and in the newspapers, the need to adhere to the health regulations, now in force, and that those who fail to do so would be penalised.

He has also stated that plainclothes officers would move around to apprehend such offenders.

Perhaps, he should instruct his officers to pay surprise visits to some of these entertainment venues.

He would certainly have more than a bus load of offenders to be whisked off for PCR/Rapid Antigen tests!

I need to quote what Dr. H.T. Wickremasinghe said in his article, published in The Island of Tuesday, February 16th, 2021:

“…let me conclude, while emphasising the need to continue our general public health measures, such as wearing masks, social distancing, and avoiding crowded gatherings, to reduce the risk of contact with an infected person.

“There is no science to beat common sense.”

But…do some of our folks have this thing called COMMON SENSE!

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