Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
No matter how you cut it, Trump garnered most of the news this year. He’s shaken up everything. He’s exposed the weakness of democracy, flipping accepted conventions of their head. In the process kicking a lot of dogma into the long grass. Newspapers and TV stations no longer get to filter or twist presidential views. He talks to us directly through Twitter. It’s not refined, pretty nor nuanced - yet effective.
While Trump’s moral and intellectual turpitude is evident, he’s not mad as many would suggest. His recently announced ‘National Security Strategy’ is pragmatic in recognising that Obama failed. Running around the world seeking democratic transformations does not always produce welcome outcomes. Nor does it serve US interests. The Trump NSS rejects the over-reach of his predecessors. That means fewer innocents dying as misaimed missiles land in third world countries.
A change had to happen. The nauseating sense of entitlement that permeated Hillary Clinton’s campaign was palpable. Since arriving in the White House, Trump caused gasps of shock and amazement. The latest, recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, is long overdue. This demonstrates he’s not willing to collude in the endless UN talking shop without a solution in sight.
In the process, Trump has exposed the UN as a feeble entity. An unavailing forum that genuflects to all opinions, it spins in circles before doing nothing. It can’t even protect its troops from ramshackle rebel armies. Over Jerusalem, the US has called out nations that are willing to take American money in aid, then forego political support when it matters. On that score, Trump is right.
North Korea better take note. It’s not business as usual for them. The screw is tightening, as China now realises that the ending may be messy. Reports of provinces next to North Korea preparing for a refugee influx feed the view that we are moving to a dangerous phase. It’s sure that North Korea would falter if war came, the question is how much damage it would do in the process. There are twenty-five million people in South Korea within artillery range. If it kicks off, it will be unpleasant with profound damage. Then, what happens afterwards is unknown. How China reacts, it’s relationship with the US, the impact on world trade - all are essential unknowns.
Meanwhile, across in Europe, the vast multicultural project is unravelling. Islamic terrorists sealed its fate, as the indigenous people make their displeasure known. Even the once tolerant Danes have had enough. Attacks on young girls enjoying a night out in Manchester, vehicles ramming ordinary folks, knife attacks and more bombs. Our western culture is under assault. In turn, this feeds the popularity of the extreme far-right parties. Unless the centralists politicians can reclaim a dialogue of moderation, things will escalate in 2018.
With a doubt, the most downcast country in Europe is the UK. Let’s be honest; it’s a mess. Brexit is going nowhere. As things stand, the UK will de-facto remain under EU law without the power to influence policy. Prime Minister Teresa May has no plan. Making it up as she goes along. I’m amazed the woman remains in control given the fumbling policy reversals. With her party fighting amongst itself, she’s a chair filler. Her disastrous election campaign told us her judgement is wobbly. Thus, why is the UK leaving Brexit negotiations to her incompetence?
May faces an opposition Labour Party with no discernible policies beyond broad principles. Corbyn is keeping mum on Brexit because he’s either canny or clueless. He’s busy portraying himself as the next Prime Minister. Despite his popularity with the young, I don’t see middle-England electing him. His indecision over nuclear weapons and cover-ups of misconduct, don't play well.
The big question remains - will Brexit happen? The ghost of our saviour and messiah, Tony Blair, has arisen threatening to save us from that fate. Ignoring the fact that he’s as popular as a fart in the space suit; his usual over-confidence is to the fore. Alasdair ‘Goebbels’ Campbell will need all his dark power to resurrect Blair. Now that Murdoch is no longer on-side providing top cover, Blair is a much-weakened figure. His alleged ‘horizontal mambo’ with Wendie Deng is sending ripples beyond the bedchamber.
A burnout tower block, an aircraft-carrier without planes and faltering systems are symbols of 2017 Britain. Meanwhile, the police chase thought-crimes as rapes and robbery go undetected. The NHS remains in perpetual crisis. The list goes on. A bleak, but not inaccurate summary of the UK. Sadly, the UK is tied in knots, always has been, probably always will be, by tradition as a raison d’etre.
I suppose the only distraction for the Brits is the Markle makeover. A royal wedding is always useful to take people’s minds off their troubles. Of course, the media went into overdrive over the engagement of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle. The usual tripe about ‘redefining’ the monarchy ran amok. And yes, she’s ‘black’ - that had to be pointed out. Did anyone notice or care? I wish them well in their ‘goldfish bowl’ life.
Getting nearer to home - Hong Kong. The psychologists tell us that happiness comes from having low expectations. Thus, the Hong Kong people's delight with our new Chief Executive Carrie Lam abounds. A lifelong bureaucrat, she’s done nothing tangible since coming to office. For me, that’s an excellent thing. Keep the traffic flowing, crime in check, clean the air and ease business. Meanwhile, look after the needy. That’s about it.
Some would argue that Hong Kong is losing its shine. In their view, lacklustre officials, a stalemate in our parliament plus a general air of negativity pervade society. The assertion is the government fails to prove it has the interests of the majority at heart. It’s sure Carrie Lam has no vision that resonates with people. As a bureaucrat, her responses are rote, without much verifiable innovation. Yet, she’s a safe pair of hands who is not prone to rush thing.
It cannot go unremarked, that once reliable Hong Kong systems are starting to creak. The MTR has suffered some failures, indicative of slipping maintenance and deficient management. Our airport is no longer the showcase it was. Mainland airports are catching up, while Singapore’s Changi shames us. Persistent media reports suggesting the airport’s air traffic control system is faulty continue to surface. The veracity of this is hard to determine. Nonetheless, the damage is done.
On a related note, the lack of creativity in Hong Kong’s IT infrastructure draws unfavourable comparisons. The Mainland does better. Partly to blame is a fractured political situation. As all IT changes get viewed with a jaundiced eye by of the Pan-Dems, nothing happens. They see a Mainland bogeyman intent on suppression in all new technology. Like the original Luddites, change is an anathema to them. Those the benefits of facial recognition and e-commerce through electronic payments remain stalled.
Year by year China grows confident and assertive. President Xi in firm control, having harnessed the anti-corruption campaign to remove enemies. He keeps the disparate forces in check that seek to undermine China’s progress. Meanwhile, the bluster of Trump over trade is background noise. China has the fiscal and economic clout to ward off current threats.
It all sounds discouraging. Best begone 2017! Yet, on scale, things are as good as they’ve ever been. Human population growth is slowing. The scientists now foresee the numbers stabilising within decades. That should help with climate change. A woman’s right to live without sexual harassment gained significant traction. The nasty Weinstein saga has positives.
According to Prof. Steven Pinker of Harvard University, we are living in the most peaceful era since the existence of our species. Homicide, war-related deaths, genocide, rape, violence against children and terrorism are all declining. This decade-long process continues.
So, don’t be fooled by the constant intrusion of social media and the 24-hour news feed. A drip drip drip of images of doom and disaster gives a false impression. That's real fake news!
Walter De Havilland is one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Hong Kong Police.