He came, he saw (sumo) and then what? This remains to be discovered in the coming days and months. In any event, US President Donald Trump’s fanfare-filled and highly visible state visits to Japan and the UK are over.
The Japan visit reminded me of a discovery I made last October about this man’s abilities. He may be controversial, he may be offensive, he may be simply too embarrassing to keep watching for too long. He may be a whole lot of things that the world could do without. Yet, there is one thing for which he deserves credit: his unifying power. I realised this during the final class of a course, entitled “Making Sense of the Global Economy”, that I taught overseas students last autumn.
For all my courses at Doshisha University, the final class is always a comedy show. I divide my students into groups of three or four. I then give these groups a common theme for a comedy skit, which they must perform in front of each other and anybody else who wants to come along and be a part of the audience. After all, Doshisha University is in Kyoto, which is a part of the Kansai region. And Kansai is the undisputed Land of the Laugh in Japan. This surely makes it inevitable that an element of humour should enter into the education that goes on in our classrooms.
The performances have become increasingly well attended. I may have to start issuing tickets before long.
For last October’s show, the common theme was “To be or not to be: Globalisation vs. Deglobalisation”. To be both funny and relevant at the same time on this issue is no easy task. However, the students rose to the occasion with immense energy and some fairly deep thinking. The performances were most entertaining as well as highly enlightening. One of those enlightenments was the fact of Donald Trump’s ability to bring people together.
Seven groups got on stage on the day. Five were deglobalists. They wanted to stop globalisation in its tracks because it brought nothing but misery to the well-meaning masses.
One group set their scene in a five-star restaurant in an undisclosed, exclusive location where discrimination of all kinds ran rampant. Another featured a “Barbecue Chicken King” somewhere on the African continent who gets crushed by gigantic global opponents. Yet another told the tale of a highly dubious magical mystery drugstore selling potions claiming to upgrade your global competitive skills. The indictments against globalisation were many and varied.
Meanwhile, the two groups championing globalisation were remarkably similar in their approach. One told a story of Donald Trump vs. the media. The other set Donald Trump against a group of globally minded states. Both groups had Donald Trump pelting down the “America first” unilateralist track. On the other side of the confrontation, both media outlets and globalist states displayed incredible unity in their effort to stop Mr Trump and bring him back into the global community.
Media is normally fiercely competitive, and can all too easily descend into tribal warfare. But not when confronting Donald Trump. On stage, against Donald Trump, the journalists’ solidarity was perfect and collective wisdom shone most eloquently. Countries are essentially preoccupied with the national interest. To that extent, they are not much different from Mr Trump, really. He just says it more unpleasantly, abusively and inelegantly.
But my students on stage showed the audience how the presence of a common enemy—one of the Donald Trump variety—can put the pursuit of narrow-minded self-interest on hold. The globalist nations’ harmony was quite exquisite as they collectively attempted to lure Mr Trump into their community. In sweet unison, they sang in praise of a caring and sharing global society. It was almost as though the arrival of Donald Trump had served to make nations realise, for the first time, how globalisation can actually work to make the world a better place—so long as they are prepared to unite in support of each other.
Gift in disguise?
Watching these performances, I began to have a funny feeling about Mr Trump. Could he conceivably be a gift from heaven? Could he have been heaven sent to bring people closer together across borders, to form bonds of solidarity against divisiveness and confrontation? Could he be the perfect example of what not to do and how not to do it, one that people can learn from so as to make a success of globalisation rather than deglobalising into confrontational chaos?
He certainly seems to have had that effect on the two groups who opted to support a global view against a deglobal one. The arguments that the journalists and national representatives put forward before the belligerent Mr Trump were really most convincing, and indeed quite moving. Could it be that Mr Trump is also equipped with the ability to bring out the best in everybody else besides himself? What a revelation.