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If you are the Dealer

          I’m out of the game

  • Leonard Cohen


‘Dealer’ is a common Cohen euphemism for ‘president’ or any kind of boss-man. Indeed, as far back as his poetry of the late-fifties, gambling appears as a metaphor for life itself, in which you are playing with the greatest dealer of all. The words and music of Leonard Cohen have been a staple of my life for fifty years, and his death was a harder blow than I’d ever anticipated it would be. My personal issues aside, what a diabolical week! Through the agency of my wife, I placed upon his Montreal doorstep this morning a box of chocolates and a long-stemmed rose. In his characteristically self-effacing way, Leonard would be amazed by the worldwide outpouring of love and grief. I can hear him saying, ‘It’s just the Lightforce of the Lord shining through me that they feel…’ Yes, indeed.


In retrospect, I was appalled by my attempt to put an optimistic spin on the election of Donald Trump. There is clearly little or nothing optimistic about a Trump presidency. I do not know enough about Constitutional Law to say whether or not a legal challenge to the election-result is viable. However, I do know that hardly any Americans can explain the phenomenon of Electoral College votes – which mean that the election goes to whoever wins over 270 such statewide votes, and not to whoever gains the most votes, as Hilary Clinton seems to have done last week. You elect electors and not candidates? It makes no sense. Like the private ownership of the Federal Reserve, it is one of those fundamentally inexplicable anomalies that breed theories of conspiracy, or at least of occluded double-dealing. It is a curious turn of events that has the Democrats questioning this election and not, as he’d suggested, Trump’s Republicans. The whole US system, with its usually ignored or down-played mid-terms, its Electoral College, and its general federal-state confusion has long been called into question. But I think it is democracy itself that needs to be questioned. One of its more modern pioneers, Rousseau, says, in his Social Contract, that it is a perfect system, yet one only suited to a perfect society of gods. He maintains that some peoples will never be able to handle democracy. The US seems to be one of these. The Socratic ideal, espoused in Plato’s Republic, theorizes a perfect rule by philosopher-kings, of which Piere Elliot Trudeau was once acclaimed by some as an example. But ancient Greece was hardly democratic – like the US, it was an oligarchy – and the Platonic republic suggests outlawing poets, writers, and perhaps artists of any kind. They’re a menace to societal tranquility.

I once wrote a piece – for Harper’s, I think – suggesting that a vote needed to be earned, and was not a right. There ought to be some kind of basic test before you could vote — state what the candidates’ platforms are about, for example. Nothing severe, but not multiple-choice either. Why would you vote, went the argument, if you do not know why you’re voting? The piece garnered great hostility – I was a fascist, mainly – yet I now wonder whence the hostility came. I’d assumed it was from the Left, but this recent election makes me think it may have been the Right. They do have more to gain from an ignorant electorate — those whose political views exist only as moronic slogans. There is of course also the great mystery of a proletariat consistently voting against its own best interests. Who has ever explained this, except by family tradition or amped-up media rhetoric? An earned vote would at least prevent millions from casting a self-destructive ballot. But those millions also comprise the most easily-swayed segments of society. Right-wing barkers and howlers have long accused universities in particular of being bastions of the Left. This has always struck me as a self-refuting allegation, inasmuch as it points to the most intelligent being drawn to liberal politics. It is natural that right-wing elites have always opposed state-subsidized further-ed for the needy. It is education alone that will change society for the better by ensuring a fully-informed vote. To this extent, America is still back where Europe was during the Industrial Revolution. And, in truth, no western nation will achieve democratic ideals until the system of private schools is abolished. I have lectured in such schools and can assure readers that their small classes and numerous other perquisites – not least of which are opportunities to socialize with others in elite strata of society – guarantee advantages way, way beyond the grasp of ordinary mortals. The very few exceptions – mainly, it seems, in venture capital or Silicon Valley – simply prove the rule. I have friends willing to pay for such offspring-benefits – and, no doubt, I would have too if the money had been there. But the playing-field must be levelled if we are to call ourselves a democracy. It is a simple fact that wealth ought not be hereditary – that merit alone must determine social status and its rewards.

As we have seen most clearly with Trump – yet it preceded him – further education, with its fancy big words, and its theorized scorn for the working man, is in fact undesirable, and even a social ill. It is what those of us who questioned Marx and Trotsky referred to fearfully as ‘a dictatorship of the proletariat’ – the idea of government by the under-educated for the uneducated. Of course, it would in fact be manipulation of the uneducated by the well-educated posing as blue-collar oafs. Marx saw the workers rising like Lazarus, yet he did not envisage this happening without universal education. He also saw the fiest revolution happening in relatively well-educated England, not serf-owning Russia. The Russian proletariat were only roused by leaders posing as fellow-workers. One thinks of that malevolent goblin Lenin in his worker’s cap, and of Mao in his custom-tailored Mao-jacket, which from a great distance resembled attire of the dispossessed hundreds of millions.

Trump doesn’t wear tacky Mafia-suits from his own line, nor one of his own frightening collection of cheap, sweatshop-made silk Trump Neckties. It is admittedly true that he has managed to find an expensive tailor to dress him with equal vulgarity. Yet one must assume that, with his pricey hair-weave or toupee, he closely resembles the self-image many a laid-off coal worker or dirt-poor farm labourer has of their lottery-winning selves. Trump has always been a vulgarian – whose excesses were only matched by his first wife – so I am not suggesting demonic cunning going back decades. His awful TV show probably showed us the real public man. His problem now is different, though. As my friend, Richard Sparks observed, he’s narcissistic, self-promotional, venal, greedy, power-hungry, and he needs to be loved – all of these being excellent qualities for a politician. The need to be loved by all, however, may be what saves us. We are now hearing a more reticent Trump – liked Obama, loved the concern and patriotism of anti-Trump demonstrators – so we can imagine a Trump already looking towards his historical record as another Lincoln, a healer of divisions, a political Titan. He will not enjoy being president – no one ever has – so all the job will hold for him is the explosive bloating of his baggy brand to interstellar dimensions. Resigned to being a minor footnote in financial history, he now faces the possibility of bestriding the known world like a Colossus, an American Caesar, a Yankee Frederick the Great,  or a Brooklyn Napoleon (minus Waterloo). We can only hope that the compromising minutiae of the job turn him to these greener pastures: Uncle Trump’s fireside chats-of-the-Union.

Trump’s victory aside, has there been anything more despicable than the Republicans who scorned him when the chips looked to be down now trying to crawl up his arse for positions and preferment? That shameless pawn of vested interests and extravagantly unprincipled Beltway whore, House Speaker Paul Ryan, taking Trump up to the Capitol’s mount to show him all the kingdoms of the world – truly sickening! And he’s just one of a disgusting troupe of hypocritical bum-lickers. One hopes Trump won’t forget so quickly the league of back-stabbers. Yet when you hear of such hoary old Nazi reptiles as Newt Gingrich and Rudolfo Giuliani – surely long since cast into the Lake of Fire? – you cannot help but think of replacing the Statue of Liberty’s slogan thus: Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here… No wonder California wants to leave the Union.


As I’ve said, all US refugees welcome up here in the Laurentians. It’s inexpensive, and we ought to survive the Global Warming apocalypse longer than most – not hat having the last laugh will be very consoling.


Paul William Roberts