As news dawns that President Trump is a stupid and as venal as we all thought he was, the responses to his latest bout of narcissism in withdrawing America from the Paris Agreement are revealing. Stephen Jardine on BBC Scotland leads a Brasseye-style radio discussion with one woman calling in to explain how she uses used milk cartons to scare away the birds from her strawberries, several callers engage in a bit if virtue-signalling about their recycling habits, someone chanters on about “the population problem” and the inevitable false-equivalence is indulged in with various people explaining how “climate change is a hoax” and not really happening at all.
So far so shudderingly moronic.
Other responses are more upbeat with some policy-makers offering soundbites suggesting that this action will spur us and the rest of the world on to even greater bolder actions. Others even suggested that this would give “denialists a bad name” and that this would somehow have a good outcome. It’s kind of wilfully naive and it’s own version of denialism.
Our own government (sic) has a different response, which is essentially collusion:
UK Government has not signed this joint French -German-Italian European statement saying Paris Agreement “cannot be renegotiated” re Trump pic.twitter.com/Sxw7UE8K7U
— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) June 1, 2017
Another response would be to name it for what it really is. This is what Adam Ramsay does:
“It’s not really Trump who withdrew from the Paris climate conference. It’s Exxon. It’s Chevron. It’s the coal lobby and the fracking lobby. It’s Rex Tillerson, whose only qualification as Secretary of State is that he ran the biggest and dirtiest oil company in the world. It’s the corporate lobbyists who tried to destroy the Paris agreement in the first place, and just went back to the States to kill it off there. And this isn’t an ‘act of madness’, as some have said. It is a perfectly rational decision that, in order to stay rich, these people have to kill off whole countries, have to drive whole peoples into the sea. They aren’t stupid. They don’t misunderstand what they are doing. I spent the Paris climate conference following them around, talking to them, sitting in their events. Whatever they said in public about supporting it, they knew fine well that its success would spell the end of their industry. And ultimately, they chose their riches over the lives of millions of others. People have said that this is a stupid act, and a suicidal one. It is neither. It is a decision to kill millions in order to stay rich.”
The first part is that we have allowed somehow the greed and stupidity of one man to have so much influence he can affect the sustainability of the whole world.
As the wonderfully eloquent writer Rebecca Solnit writes this week in The Loneliness of Donald Trump:
“Once upon a time, a child was born into wealth and wanted for nothing, but he was possessed by bottomless, endless, grating, grasping wanting, and wanted more, and got it, and more after that, and always more. He was a pair of ragged orange claws upon the ocean floor, forever scuttling, pinching, reaching for more, a carrion crab, a lobster and a boiling lobster pot in one, a termite, a tyrant over his own little empires. He got a boost at the beginning from the wealth handed him and then moved among grifters and mobsters who cut him slack as long as he was useful, or maybe there’s slack in arenas where people live by personal loyalty until they betray, and not by rules, and certainly not by the law or the book. So for seven decades, he fed his appetites and exercised his license to lie, cheat, steal, and stiff working people of their wages, made messes, left them behind, grabbed more baubles, and left them in ruin.”
The second part of the tragedy is that we are all Trump. We are all culpable, we are all complicit, we are all part of the madness. But we don’t have to be.
Just as the Conservatives have a long record of supporting and protecting brutal regimes (take Pinochet and Die Groot Krokodil for starters), we have a long tradition of boycott and resistance.
The only language that Trump understands is economic. Him and his supporters are not responsive to rational dialogue or science. So we must make the USA a Pariah State and create a global economic boycott that undermines the regime and focuses international condemnation. The second thing we should do is to re-articulate that the only response to climate change is to transform the capitalist economy. You can’t green capitalism, just as you can’t solve the climate crisis by putting milk cartons on your strawberry patch.
If Trump’s actions do anything at all they reveal to the world that the capitalist economy is incompatible with human survival.
There’s a double dose of self-delusion going on as Trump asks, apparently seriously:
That happened a long time ago, but these aren’t tears of laughter.
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