One of the greatest experiments in human history began this weekend. Mr. Trump was sworn in as a universally recognized exception to the ordinary rhythm of American politics. The moment was both celebrated and bemoaned for that reason.
When the Clinton administration left the White House in 2001, the incoming staff of George W. Bush arrived to find that the keyboards of the West Wing were missing their “W’s” as a parting sneer to the new order. We can only imagine that such small-mindedness was not in evidence in the White House today. Since that time, things got real.
The present reality is one increasingly complex and uncertain. These elements are uncomfortable, but bearable and certainly have their own virtues. They are bearable because we currently enjoy the stability of global security founded upon a system built and supported by America.
When the new president stepping in to direct the future of this endeavour seems uncertain of the value of that global security to his country, it is not surprising that the whole world is on edge. Global security and repose appear to hang in the balance. The current international system built up after the Second World War was a deliberate bulwark created to guard against conflict and instability. It has taken an unparalleled amount of work and negotiation to create and maintain.
With so many unknowns at play regarding the future of this latticework of multi-lateral institutions and agreements, the world must ensure that Mr. Trump is given a clear case for their efficacy in maintaining global security and stability. The brunt of this work and education will undoubtedly fall on those now forming his administration. Such an education would generally be very simple, but in this case may be quite difficult to achieve. The international system depends on a global community of experts and a respect for facts, evidence and due process. In other words, the world of global security depends on everything Mr. Trump loathes. One of the essential tasks of those forming the new administration will be to convince the President that gut feeling is not the equal to evidence and expert opinion. This is the most important task on the globe right now.
Let us allow that President Trump is the one who will set America right and actualize the dreams and ideals of its’ founders. Last week you could laugh at that statement. Today, you should hope it can be true. Exaggeration has been ever-present with Mr. Trump, in his own statements and those about him. Yet it may be no exaggeration to say that with his fate hangs a great part of the fate of the entire civilization that has developed from the Enlightenment.
The Enlightenment in itself was a simple thing: it was the growth of a belief in questioning assumptions and learning through evidence. From his inauguration speech, it is obvious Mr. Trump still believes that he knows better than the community of experts who have led America in the past decades. He makes a virtue of questioning the entire methodology of the Enlightenment. Instead, he offers gut instinct as a guide to truth.
The greatest hope for global security is that Mr. Trump does not try to fool absolutely everyone, that he sees his ignorance and is going to reach out in subtle ways for education. That is the heart of the Enlightenment project. Perhaps never in history has so much hung on the education of a single individual while in power. For this reason, we had better hope he admits ignorance to someone. He has already shown himself dangerously anti–information by refusing daily security briefings. But he is going to be meeting a lot of smart people – he will be confronted by a parade of intelligence.
We must hope that right now, there is a quiet adviser or Under-Secretary of State who has the ability to invite him into the Enlightenment. We need a gifted teacher so subtle that the student doesn’t even realize he is being drawn out of ignorance. In unexpected surroundings, in surprising times, we need the Enlightenment to occur in a single person.
This is what the entire globe must work towards now: It is no longer entertainment and it is no longer a game. We must all be working towards the enlightenment of President Donald John Trump.
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