Fire and fury: the psychodrama of a very stable genius

This article first appeared on Open Democracy Transformation

The release of Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury has heightened concerns about Donald Trump’s mental fitness for office. In her review of the book for the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin says that it shows Trump to be “an unhinged man-child utterly lacking in the skill needed to be president”—despite Trump’s assertion that in fact he’s a “very stable genius.”

In the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland writes that Wolff’s revelations “prove—yet again—what a vile, narcissistic and dangerous man we have in the Oval Office.” And in the New Yorker, Masha Gessen, warns that Trump’s White House is “waging a daily assault on the public’s sense of sanity, decency, and cohesion. It makes us feel crazy.”

Is there any way to get beneath the daily assault on our sanity and try to understand what might be driving the chaos of the Trump Presidency? A good place to start is with the word that many say best sums up the man, which is narcissismContinue reading

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Extremism, Fundamentalism, Islamism and Jihadism – Understanding the Difference

Although several Muslim countries are democracies – including most notably Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim majority nation – arguments about the incompatibility of Islam and democracy continue. On the one hand, research reveals a positive correlation between the proportion of a country’s population that is Muslim and its propensity toward authoritarianism. On the other hand, analysis of the World Values Survey, find that “surprisingly similar attitudes toward democracy are found in the West and the Islamic world.” While debates about the compatibility of Islam and democracy in general continue, the specific political ideology of islamism is an extreme, fundamentalist, political ideology that is vehemently opposed to the basic tenets of democracy.   Continue reading

The China Model – Advantages of the One Party Meritocratic State?

China’s success in recent decades has been remarkable. Economic reforms have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of severe poverty, the greatest reduction in poverty ever[1]. Beneath China’s spectacular economic progress, however, the Chinese Communist Party retains much of its authoritarian nature.[2] But while the Party still relies on many of the classic tactics of authoritarianism to maintain its grip on power, supporters argue that the China Model has some critical advantages over the model of liberal democracy.[3]  Continue reading

How Kleptocracy Shapes Our World

In many countries around the world today, governments are designed not primarily to govern but to serve the personal enrichment of ruling elites. Kleptocracy is the term used to describe such ‘government by thieves’, whereby top political elites systematically raid state resources with impunity.[1] Kleptocracy is enabled by the absence of democratic checks and balances on those in power. Kleptocratic governments undermine the rule of law, subjugate the courts and media, and deploy state security services to enrich the ruling elite and pacify the population.[2]  Kleptocracy is largely responsible for creating and perpetuating many of today’s global crises, including acute poverty and hunger, war, religious extremism, and global inequality.  Continue reading