from “A Diary of Moods”
My first impulse, if carried out, would help to produce a structure for this intended book. Each day, at least once, I would sit long enough at this table to describe in succinct yet cogent detail precisely what sort of mood I am in at, say, four forty-five in the morning. I don’t work anymore; hell, I’m sixty nine now, and retired and loving every leisurely minute of it.
Now, some men hate to retire. Look at President Biden; but he’s hardly the only man who would at least attempt to work himself into his grave. The Japanese have given this phenomenon a specific name, but don’t ask me to recall it.
I’ve never been averse to committing academic drudgery in the historical vein, mind you, which is of the most grave importance. When a people begin to review themselves into a new set of mythologies — for truth can rarely replace a permanent lie; still, something seismic has taken place. And what this turns out to be will never at first even be remotely obvious. The ‘new’ as you perceive it now in the objects and habits of people around and nearby you, those in your community with whom you have much in common — and that is one of the first required precepts for community members to possess . . . But some of us would prefer to live well-beyond the stench of poverty and landfills and obliterating traffic noise.
So, to ferret out the new, as distinct from what has already lived or been or somehow in some fashion gone before, before now — that is difficult. Well-aimed judgments can be thrown off their mark from the least amount of inattention. And to master one’s easily distracted, ceaselessly wandering mind takes more effort than can ever be realized upon the first and even second and third attempts. But persistence sometimes pays off. Riches were never merely handed to the California gold miner, for example. He had to engage in days if not weeks of back-breaking toil, wielding his pickax and scoop shovel, his first line of attack loosening and removing tons of earth; then to sift through each shovel-full at the creek-edge, hoping to find a small golden nugget or two.
The desire to acquire riches and accumulate wealth takes possession of such a person so inclined and predisposed, takes hold of them early in life and never lets go; for avarice and greed never present themselves with limits, just as candy-lovers never allot themselves a reason to stop eating fat-producing sweets, gradually inflating the size of their bodies to the point of disgusting grotesquery.
Evidence of obesity abounds here in the United States. Many women who were once slender attractive girls in their late teenage years, after giving birth to and raising two or three children often find themselves carrying about with awkward difficulty an additional hundred pounds by middle age. Men as well, once lean and active amateur athletes in their late high school and early college years, later meet up with themselves once again with forty-inch plus waistlines and the near-impossibility of getting their own shoes or boots tied without first sitting down, or using a long-handled shoe horn.
And why do these men and women let themselves go with such apparent indifference? . . . Who knows?
Our ex-president, Donald J. Trump, will unwillingly serve here as an excellent example of what I’m talking about. He was comparatively lean and good-looking in a predatory sort of way during his early years of adulthood. He even hob-knobbed with famous professional athletes back in those days, such as Mike Tyson, for instance. But by late middle age, Trump’s girth had begun to swell. He didn’t drink liquor (owing to an alcoholic older brother who could never please their demanding father, Fred Trump, New York real estate tycoon; so D.J.T.’s self-evident weight-gain cannot be attributed to alcohol. Rich food, always served in plentiful quantities, was and has remained the culprit here; that, along with more quotidian fare such as a Big Mac or a Burger King Whopper. Trump served such greasy meals to pro-football athletes visiting the White House, one of the man’s few genuine populist gestures.
But so much for Trump; I’ve no wish to talk about the ex-president any further, since the man is inherently disagreeable. Ask anyone who has ever worked for him. If their reply is not pre-ordained by political expediency and their desire to remain attractive as a candidate for even a seat on the city council among the MAGA crowd, they will portray or depict Trump with obsequious hyperbole and refuse to display him as the infantile narcissist and clownish clod and crank that he actually is.
The page on propaganda in the autocrat’s playbook was never lost on Trump, a veteran weaver of lies in his real estate business negotiations, either significantly inflating or deflating the value of one or another of his properties according to the demands of the situation, which usually took two forms. In obtaining a loan, the value of a collateral property would suddenly become much more valuable than any sane, clear-headed estimate would allow. And by a similar if inverted token, Trump would drop the value of a property due to be taxed, deferment of any payment no longer possible. And this corruption and blatant disregard of the truth has been engraved upon Trump’s calling card ever since his father handed over his first few responsibilities in the senior Trump’s real estate transactions.
Not hard to imagine, an early middle-aged Trump adherent giving the shameless and unrepentant fellow a basket-full of empty praises in front of their children at the breakfast or dinner table. “Everything you hear bad about Trump on the new media, festering as it is with their ideological biases and socialist propaganda, is a flat-out lie.”
Just as in the past, when deeply conservative-minded men sung their praises to the John Birch Society and the Ku Klux Klan, they now shout out their heartfelt plaudits to Trump, who would turn his back on them in a heart-beat if such an act would be thought to serve his personal interests. He never gave a moment’s notice to furthering the public or common good; but, what he did endeavor to do was to bilk the great swath of taxpayers from millions of dollars at every turn.
That the United States, which conceived of and implemented the Marshall Plan immediately following World War II, showcased for the entire world to see with the Berlin Air-Lift which alarmed and angered Stalin’s Soviet Union, would pursue an exclusionary, isolationist foreign policy struck the whole of Europe as incomprehensible and utterly misguided. And from 2016 to 2020, a good portion of the world population — with the notable exception of those four and a half billion souls in the People’s Republic of China — suffered from Trump’s sheer disregard for every corner of the globe save for that of the United States. His “foreign policy” arose directly out of his personality, suffused as it still is with a crippling fear of “the other” and boundless avarice. And now, more than ever before, it comes as no surprise that the typical American despises any and all political discussion or the briefest utterance of a political opinion.