Filed Under:  OpEd, Opinion

Unbridled testosterone driving world leaders

26th September 2016   ·   0 Comments

Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith
Guest Columnist

As people express their respect for GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, the adjective that comes up repeatedly is that he is “tough.” People like his “tough” words, his “tough” promises of how things will be if he is elected, including his building a wall between the southern border of the United States and Mexico that the Mexican government will pay for.

Meanwhile, Trump has heaped praise upon Vladimir Putin, whom Trump says is a tough leader. John Avlon, in The Daily Beast, described the leadership styles of both Trump and Putin as “tough guy thuggery.” Avlon writes, “There have always been people in this world who get weak-kneed at the first whiff of authoritarianism. They think that the bullying bluster of self-styled strongmen makes them great leaders. They mistake heat for light.”

I call it unbridled testosterone, a pissing contest with contenders all wanting to prove who is the toughest — at the expense of the people they govern.

Avlon writes that “thugs believe that raw power is the only way to get respect and terror is a tactic to that end.” As Trump has let loose his raw, bullying spirit and accompanying words, we are seeing more and more male leaders follow suit. In the Philippines, it’s President Rodrigo Duterte, who this week cursed President Obama openly and unabashedly, and in North Korea, young Kim Jong-un is letting the world know that he is ready and able to wipe out the world with his country’s growing nuclear capability.

Some have said that in the case of Trump and Putin that the latter is playing Trump like a fiddle. Putin was in the KGB and, it is said, learned the art of manipulating people. In the case of Trump the manipulation seems to be relatively easy; compliment The Donald and you’re his friend. Putin no doubt has noticed that and is able to oblige. His goal is to make Russia not only “great again,” but “the greatest” again. So he can compliment Trump and is probably smiling smugly as he watches the GOP candidate fall into the web he is spinning. He is studying Trump closely, no doubt, and is planning his strategy to put Russia ahead of the United States. Trump, it seems, is either clueless or does not care. What seems to be true is that both men have inordinate confidence in themselves, and both are sure they can win against the other should a final countdown come to be.

Trump is working hard and effectively on the fear that is running rampant in this country among white men in particular and white people in general as he talks about the loss of jobs, made worse by the presence of illegal immigrants and radical Islamic terrorism. He knows fear and he knows how to work it to his advantage. He knows that people equate bullying with strength, and will do anything to protect themselves. He is a master at what he is doing.

Putin and Kim Jong-un are also playing into fear. In Putin’s case, he is pandering to the American fear of terrorism and is setting himself up as a partner with Trump to wipe the fear and the terrorists out. They are putting out the message that they can do what nobody else has been able to do in decades. In Kim Jong-un’s case, the strategy is to make the entire world afraid of his country. He is young and brash and eager to show his strength and is warning the world that he is ready to place North Korea on the map as a formidable nuclear power, regardless of the cost.

These three men seem to be part and parcel of the same mentality, and what is troubling is that it feels like they are circling each other, feeling each other out, but ready to prove just who is the greatest. They are being called “leaders,” but they are really immature schoolboys who care about nothing but their own power. The danger is that their venue is not an isolated schoolyard but is, instead, the world stage.

In the event of a showdown, in the event that one of these men says something to or about another that makes that person angry, what happens to the world? All of them want to be the leader of “the greatest nation” in the world, but there can be just one superlatively defined nation; in such a state of reality, someone has to lose. These men are reminiscent of the cowboys seen on old Westerns, using guns to knock each other out. The weapon for this fight, though, will not be a handgun. No. The weapon of choice for this fight is a nuclear arsenal. Someone has to lose; someone will lose, and the likes of the battle and its aftermath are something most of us just do not want to think about.

The question is, as these world figures challenge each other, who will emerge the victor? Not a one of them will back down; their testosterone levels are at a dangerous high. I tremble for “we the people” who are and will be at the mercy of this unbridled testosterone which is pushing grown men to act like spoiled little boys or worse, arrogant college fraternity members.

This article originally published in the September 26, 2016 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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