If I believed in reincarnation (which, I have to confess, I admittedly don’t) at least I would have a plausible explanation for Donald Trump and his rather unique form of decision making. If I didn’t know better, I might suggest that the said gentleman shows all the signs of being a reincarnated haruspex or, at the very least, a heptomancer.
If you had gone to some top educational institution (like, to take a name at random, er…Wharton College…) you would probably already know that according to the religious beliefs of Ancient Rome, a haruspex was a person trained to practice a form of divination based on examining and predicting the future according to the appearance of animals’ intestines…. The reading of omens specifically from the liver is of course also known by the Greek term hepatoscopy (also hepatomancy). … The Latin term haruspex, is from an archaic word “haru” meaning “entrails”,or ” intestines”. The modern equivalent appears to be President Trump who famously explains he makes all his important decisions by following what his gut is telling him.
However there is a more serious point to make. In the days of ancient Rome there was little else to turn to other than those with sufficient confidence to set themselves up as diviners. In those days, there were no high tech electronic snoopers (like today’s listening stations of “Five Eyes” ) whereby the Western world governments can now check on the world’s Internet traffic. The Roman empire had no international Intelligence agencies to turn to, no code breakers, no climate scientists, and certainly no satellite observation or space based navigation systems. The Romans had no need for high tech weapons detectors, and had no students of the world’s religions to call on, nor experts from international organizations under the umbrella of the yet to be organized United Nations.
Since in those days there were no significant ways of stuffing up the world’s climate, no understanding of disease control and no means of dealing with national disaster, the incantations of the self-confident, mumbo jumbo, entrail consultants and sages were about as good as it got.
In those days, the inexorable forces of nature came and went. This meant the frightening and inexplicable disasters would eventually cease to worry, and floods, plagues, droughts, earthquakes and eclipses all tended to recede by themselves. If they were astute, Trump-like diviners could take the credit, modestly taking the responsibility for any improvement after their spells were recited, their wild guess predictions shared, their prayers chanted and the pots and pans banged to order. The ignorant would therefore respect and even come to depend on the word of the haruspexes because they had little choice.
Even in the 21st century, gullible followers of the early mystics still appear present , among the voting population. Darwin can’t automatically take them out because the understanding of modern economic, scientific and political forces is not always an immediate requirement for survival. This means, time after time, the equivalent of some haruspex can and does rise again. The catch is that without noticing or caring what the genuine collectors of information are uncovering, the gullible are likely to find themselves following the self-deluded.
This convoluted introduction brings me back to the current President, the haruspex himself. I want to suggest that since our society is founded on much more effective and reliable modern methods of collecting and assessing information that ideally a President of a large and complex nation should have the common sense to avail himself (or herself) of accurate and significant information via the best and most up to date collection gathering available. Without this willingness on the part of our leaders I suspect there is little point in making room for a modern version of a haruspex.
The man checked his gut and assured America he had something to offer. Understandably many assumed he would not make such astounding claims at the beginning without the standard expectation he would have had them checked out. Because his confidence was unparalleled, many believed him. However that is now past history. Because Mr Trump alone among the world’s major leaders appears unique in that he totally scorns modern knowledge and control systems it now becomes essential to see how his predictions are working out. More than two years down the track then, how is this self-obsessed man who wants to be accepted for the reliability of his gut feelings delivering on his prognostications?
Remember he assured the nation he would make the streets and schools safe, he was going to get industry and coal going again. He was going to unite the nation. Give women and other down trodden minorities their place in the sun. The crippling debt was going to disappear. China and other trading partners were going to roll over and start treating the US more fairly.
Perhaps we should have seen it coming. Due diligence on a potential Presidential candidate might have noted that the reasons why the Australian police had Mr Trump turned down as a suitable developer for a Sydney Casino licence were that he appeared to be a man with undesirable friends in the casino and building development industry. Gut-led or not, the psychologists were claiming that here was a man who appeared totally lacking in empathy. He was certainly unconcerned with trifles like evidence. Due diligence would have noted a man, who with the assistance of his gut, took several years to understand the significance of President Obama’s publicly released birth certificate.
His promise to make the streets safe again seems to have hit a slight bump in the road with the increase in gun deaths in the first two years of his presidency.
The man who was going to do away with the US debt arrived on the scene with some real estate successes but a somewhat spotty record of failed businesses, several bankruptcies and even a failed University. Should we then be really be surprised that thus far, though tinkering with taxes, treaties, trade deals and tariffs, he has managed to increase the debt by more than two and a half trillion $US dollars, caused many to seek second and third jobs (called “putting America back to work”) or alternately “getting the economy going”. Forgetting perhaps that taxes pay for important stuff, he gave the rich great tax breaks as if unwittingly, like some predecessors, he wanted to demonstrate to the economists that “trickle down” is as illusory as a rainbow.
In the event after a share market rally lasting several months, only four per cent of companies report they changed development plans. Most companies used the extra money to buy back shares to artificially reduce the publically available shares which helped make the shareholders rich and did little for middle America. This is the man who has closed down a good number of international weapons and trade treaties and freed Russia to get back to making better and more lethal weapons. This is the first President who regularly and famously ignores the advice of his top advisors (who he says are the finest ever chosen by any president ever).
It has become painfully obvious the President is very selective as to which facts he chooses to notice. This is the man who despite meeting with many security officials in the vicinity of the Southern border, after being told repeatedly that most drugs smuggled into the US come via the current ports of entry, behaved as if his gut still advised that a wall is the answer. He also abused political opponents for claiming the priority is to provide better security at the ports of entry charging that they were not interested in security. This is the President who knows so little about Middle East politics and intelligence gathering that he thinks a military base in Iraq is the best way to collect information on his current worry, Iran. This is the man who encourages his allies in the Middle East to bomb civilian settlements, then refuses to provide refuge for the displaced refugees then seeking entry to the US.
This is a man whose gut (combined with his famous disregard for evidence) has called him literally to make several thousand mistakes of fact (often flatly contradicted by his own later statements) in his public information releases and tweets. One unexpected irony is that the truth of many Trump produced errors is subsequently assessed by the same fact checking he demanded be done by the “fake news” media.
I could go on (and probably will) but would be interested to learn if others share my gut feeling that a haruspex with little interest in evidence which challenges his (or maybe one day her) prejudices is not necessarily the best choice to lead a nation in a modern world.
I would greatly appreciate feedback!!