Lost at sea

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25 April 2017

You gotta laugh. It’s about all you can do these days in the surreal world of the Donald. Resistance is futile. You can’t contest what he says because he will say he hasn’t said it. Or that someone else said it. Or that it was never said at all. Or whatever else comes from his lips. Moreover, who needs evidence to back up what you say? That’s old-style politics, particularly if you’ve got the planet’s top job and untrammelled freedom to do or say whatever you want with total impunity. Fake news – he invented it. As with Alice’s Humpty Dumpty, so far as Trump is concerned, words in today’s new Wonderland mean just what DT chooses them to mean at the time he says them. They need bear no relation to what he has said five minutes before and no relation to what he will say five minutes later. Actually, come to think of it, that’s a perfect definition of the normal discourse of any politico that you care to think of. So perhaps Trump is not that different after all. Truth and falsehood, after all, what’s the difference? They are just two sides of the same coin.

There is an upside to all this, however. There is never a dull moment in the Donald’s brave new world.

Take North Korea, for instance. Silos stuffed with nuclear weapons, a lobotomized population and the head honcho stark raving bonkers. Every other day they fire off a rocket: sometimes these explode on take-off, sometimes they crash into the sea – not a million miles away from Japan or South Korea either. Scary stuff – particularly if you happen to be Japanese or Korean.

So the Donald, being a macho sort of guy, intends to teach Kim Jung-un, the North Korean tyrant, a lesson.

After all, a few weeks ago, DT fired 59 cruise missiles at an airfield in Syria from which planes sent by Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian sociopath, had bombed a village with chemical explosives. That’ll teach ‘em. Well, actually, it didn’t since the next night they were back bombing the village again just as if the Donald didn’t exist. But why spoil a good story?

Anyway, to get back to Korea. Obviously mindful of the exploits of Philip II of Spain, DT warned those pesky North Koreans that he was sending an “Armada” to sort them out.

Unfortunately, nobody appears to have told Trump that the Spanish Armada came to a sticky end off the west coast of Ireland in the deep waters of the Atlantic. But who cares? After all, it’s a gaffe a minute in this New Age White House!

Kim Jung-un must have been quaking in his boots.

But it was not to be. As Aristotle put it so percipiently in his Poetics, “the unexpected has a tendency to occur”. [If you are Aristotle, you can get away with the tritest of comments and folks will still regard you as a sage.]

In response to the orders of the Commander-in-Chief, the nuclear-armed aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson accompanied by a fleet of battleships set off full-steam ahead – not towards the Korean peninsula, where, according to US Pacific Command, it was supposed to be going – but in the opposition direction – towards India!

On 21 April 2017 the international edition of the New York Times (NYT) said: “After it was revealed that the carrier strike group was actually thousands of miles away [from Korea] and had been heading in the opposite direction, toward the Indian Ocean, South Koreans felt bewildered, cheated and manipulated by the United States, their country’s most important ally.”

When this news came out, you could have heard the laughter in North Korea all the way from Pyongyang to the Yalu River.

The inhabitants of Japan and South Korea, major US allies who depend on the US nuclear shield to protect them from attack by the North, were not so happy. A headline in a south Korea newspaper read: “Trump’s lie over the Carl Vinson”. Narushige Michishita, a policy analyst in Tokyo, commented: “It undermines the credibility of the US leadership”.

You can say that again.

Should the trigger-happy Mr Trump decide one day to press the nuclear missile launch button, one wonders in what direction the missiles launched would actually go.

Scary, no?

The Carl Vinson incident came hot on the heels of another DT gaffe at Korean expense. In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal – which made it clear that it was not only in the case of Imperial Spain that DT’s grasp of historical fact was less than perfect – POTUS baldly asserted that the Korean peninsula “used to be a part of China”.

The NYT commented: “Although Korea was often invaded by China and forced to pay tribute to its giant neighbour, many Koreans say the notion that they were once Chinese subjects is egregiously insulting.”

Youn Kwan-suk, a spokesman for the South Korean Democratic Party, said: “The 50 million South Koreans, as well as many common-sensical people around the world, cannot help but feel embarrassed and shocked.”

With friends like these, the Japanese and South Koreans might well be thinking, who needs enemies?

To be fair, you can understand the Donald’s problem. East Asia is a long way from the Big Apple  – at least 6 000 miles a way, at a rough guess – so a poor millionaire’s son  from Queens can’t reasonably be expected to make the sort of subtle distinction between nationalities that are self-evident to those guys who live in that neck of the woods. After all, the Chinks, the Japs and the Koreans, they all have slit eyes, flat faces and black hair, right? And it can’t be denied that they’re all Orientals, every man jack of them.  So what’s the big deal then? Why make a song and dance about alembicated nuances that nobody cares about, such as the fact that they have different languages, cultures, histories, customs, social habits, political systems, etc. No, the important thing is that they are self-evidently not Americans and we can safely leave it at that. Life is too short to peel a grape.

It reminds us of a court case in London some years ago. A Chinese restaurateur had been asked by police to pick out from a line of suspects the customers who had disappeared from his chop house without paying their bill. He told the court: “I’m sorry but I can’t  identify them. All westerners look the same to me.”


By way of a coda what about a little lexicographical digression?

The 2005 Second Edition (Revised) of the Oxford Dictionary of English has an entry that might prove useful to linguists seeking to sum up US politics today in a single word.

The word is “trumpery”.

As a noun, the word has two meanings:

  1. attractive articles of little value or use;
  2. practices or beliefs that are superficially or visually appealing but have little real value or worth.

As an adjective, it also has two meanings:

  1. showy but worthless;
  2. delusive or shallow.

It derives from the French world “tromperie” meaning “deception, deceit or trickery”.

However, we do not want to end on an unkind note.

The dictionary also defines the word “trump”. Inter alia, this is an informal – albeit dated – word for “a helpful or admirable person”.

Take your pick.



 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.




This entry was posted in China, India, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Military, Politics, Syria, USA and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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