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‘Doesn’t Even Recall What Happened Yesterday’!

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PSYCHOLOGIST DAN McADAMS ON  DONALD TRUMP . . . 

by Selvam Canagaratna

“We forget because we must / And not because we will.”

– Matthew Arnold, Empedocles on Etna, and Other Poems (1852)

Many of the United States and the world’s leading mental health experts have concluded that Donald Trump is mentally unwell, pathological, dangerous and perhaps even a sociopath or a psychopath, writes Chauncey DeVega, Salon’s staff writer on politics.   

This conclusion, he notes, was reached after more than four years of observing Trump’s public behaviour. Other mental health professionals, most notably the President’s niece, Mary Trump, who is a psychologist, as well as Dr. Justin Frank (author of Trump on the Couch) have reached the same conclusion after expertly observing Trump’s behaviour for years or decades. 

After being hospitalized several weeks ago for COVID treatment, during which he was administered an experimental cocktail of drugs, Trump has behaved in an even more erratic and aberrant manner. 

Donald Trump’s mind and mental health are like the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl. These last days before Election Day are a countdown for a man who, if he is defeated, will experience a meltdown that spreads his poison all over the world.

As documented by The Washington Post, Trump has lied more than 20,000 times while President. In these last few weeks, his lies have become more frequent and outrageous. 

Trump now claims he has somehow defeated the coronavirus pandemic

. In reality, the United States is falling deeper into a season of death. The virus is spreading largely unchecked, with more than 227,000 people dead in total and upwards of 70,000 new cases each day.

During his second and final presidential debate with Joe Biden, Trump sounded remarkably callous and cruel in his discussions of the death and suffering caused by his negligence and incompetence during the pandemic.

Because fueling his ego, grandiosity and malignant narcissism are more important than the lives of others, Trump continues to host rallies where his followers gather unmasked by the thousands. Public health experts have now directly tied Trump’s events to the spread of the virus and resulting illnesses and deaths. Trumpism literally is a death cult; his followers are human biological weapons.

Last week, in Omaha, Nebraska, Trump again showed that he does not care about the health and safety of his followers. Many of Trump’s supporters were left behind after a rally at an airfield in freezing temperatures when the buses they were promised did not appear. Many people were forced to walk several miles from the rally site back to their vehicles, and dozens of them required medical attention.  

But for all of Donald Trump’s evident mental pathologies, could it be that he is even more dangerous than previously understood? That’s the contention of Dan McAdams, who is the Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Psychology and a professor of education and social policy at Northwestern University. He is the author of almost 300 articles and chapters as well as seven books, including The Art and Science of Personality Development and The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By.

McAdams’ work has been featured in leading media outlets such as the New York Times, the New Yorker, The Atlantic, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, NPR, CNN and elsewhere. His most recent book is The Strange Case of Donald J. Trump: A Psychological Reckoning.

In it he warns that Donald Trump’s greatest threat is caused by the fact that he exists only in the present moment, a man without a future or a past who lacks any sense of a life narrative, story or ethics beyond winning at all costs. This aspect of Donald Trump is the greatest threat to the country and the world.

McAdams also cautions that Donald Trump is a unique and strange person who defies any singular category of mental diagnosis, and shares his concern that leaders like Donald Trump inevitably bring ruin and destruction to the countries they lead. 

For the first time here in America we have a full-blooded authoritarian leader. This has happened in other countries at other times, most notably the 1930s in Italy and Germany, of course. But for Americans this was all news. I’ve spent several years trying to understand Donald Trump using the standard vocabulary, nomenclature, ideas and theories from psychological science to make sense of him and his life. But they have only proved somewhat helpful in that quest.

I end up just being flummoxed by the strangeness of the man. I believe that he does not neatly fit the categories. He’s not the typical malignant narcissist. He’s unbelievably disagreeable, but in ways that nobody would ever fathom. There are so many things about Donald Trump that are peculiar. My book is entitled The Strange Case of Donald J. Trump. I cannot help but to emphasize the strangeness of Donald Trump — it is as if he is a type of one-off when it comes to human nature.

Even at this point, there are many millions of Americans who are still in shock that Trump even became President. The 50% or so of the American populace who are strongly opposed to Donald Trump never got over election night 2016. It was a traumatic experience. It was an event that people have flashbacks over. People are in therapy about what happened that night.

Many people keep hoping against hope that somehow it is all going to go away — that Trump’s time in office is this weird anomaly that happened to American culture and somehow we are going to go back to some type of pre-Trump normal. I do not believe things will be the same again in this country. What many Americans will never get over is the feeling that this is not the country they thought they lived in before Trump was elected.

There is this repeated cycle of hope and despair with America and the Age of Trump. People are hopeful that some scandal, or his crimes against democracy and the country, will stop him. But that never happens. If anything, impeachment and every revelation of his wrongdoing has made him stronger. What does that cycle of ups and downs, hope and disappointment, do to people?

Going back to the 1970s, Donald Trump wins when he wears people out. Trump’s modus operandi has always been to be more persistent, to hang in there and to run out the clock. As President he tried to win by outlasting everyone else. He did this in the real estate market. He did this to his creditors in the 1990s.

Trump has shown unlimited energy to promote himself. I do not believe that there is anyone else on the planet with that much self-promoting energy.

Every day, Donald Trump he is fighting what he considers to be a battle of survival, and then he either wins or loses. Trump has been like that his whole life. Trump wakes up the next day and starts all over again with that behaviour. Trump does not even remember what happened yesterday. Other human beings remember what happened on Monday when it is Tuesday. As human beings we develop long-term narratives about how our lives work. But not Mr. Trump. For him it is new every day.

It is not a cognitive deficit. Trump has always behaved that way. He’s always had this tremendous ability to just forget about the past and to deal with the present moment. That is part of what makes Trump so powerful in the minds of his supporters. He’s not hiding anything. He’s not thinking about yesterday. He’s not worried about two weeks from now. He looks at the crowd, and he’s 100% all there in the moment.  

Outside observers often think, “Oh my God, there is something behind all of that performance and behavior!” The answer is no. Trump is always what we see. He is Donald Trump playing “Donald Trump” all the time.

Donald Trump is totally authentic as he fakes his way through the role. Trump is a perfectly authentic fake. There is nothing behind the mask. Trump has boundless energy because he does not have to worry about yesterday or tomorrow.

What does Trump’s living in the “forever present” with no thought for the future or the past do to a country in terms of truth, reality and decision-making more generally?

It dooms a democracy. It dooms a culture and the broader development and health of a culture. Democracy and society depend on people taking some sort of long-term view. If there is no long-term vision or understanding of reality, then what works for such a person like Donald Trump is whatever he or she needs at that moment to win the fight.

For example, on a given Monday Trump will say, “Nancy Pelosi is the worst person on the planet.” On Wednesday, it is a totally different fight. He does not have any memory of Monday and thus he will then say, “Well, you know what, Nancy and I were getting along today.” And on Friday, Donald Trump is in another place. It is all moment to moment.

Other people do not live that way. It is not sustainable. To survive long-term a people, a nation, cannot have leaders who behave like Donald Trump. 

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Scholar, Advisor, Innovator and Great Friend

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by AUSTIN FERNANDO

Dr. Wickrema Weerasooria, son of Queen’s Counsel NE Weerasooria, studied at Royal College, and entered the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya, and won Harvard Memorial Prize and the Governor General’s Prize. He graduated in Law from Peradeniya, with First-Class Honours, and was later called to the Bar, as an Advocate.

I have known and associated with Dr. Wickrema Weerasooria in different capacities. First, I knew him as a pioneer Law Educator at Vidyodaya University. His students at Vidyodaya, and later even at the Post-Graduate Institute of Management, recall how he lectured, without even a short note in hand, attracting students’ attention, and enthusiasm. Additionally, he focused on teaching Commercial, Administrative, and Constitutional laws, and published texts in Sinhala, one on the Law of Contracts, another on Commercial Law.

His vast knowledge as an author was exhibited, mostly in Banking Law. Some of his publications were on Australian banking systems. Later, he delved into Buddhist Ecclesiastical Law, which produced a monumental work and a Treatise on Sri Lankan Statute Law and Judicial Decisions on Buddhist Temples and Temporalities.

His book ‘The Law Governing Public Administration in Sri Lanka,’ is a text that must be read by all public administrators and politicians. Whilst at Monash University, he wrote ‘Links between Sri Lanka and Australia: A Book about Sri Lankans (Ceylonese) in Australia’, dealing with Sri Lanka- Australia links.

With President JR Jayewardene in Office, Wickrema was appointed as the Secretary to the Ministry of Plan Implementation– a completely different role for him in public service. Working with him was also a novel experience and challenge for officers too, since he pushed them to the deep end to make quick, practical, non-traditional, sometimes unsavoury decisions for the benefit of the public.

He was the innovator of Integrated Rural Development Projects, for which he harnessed foreign assistance, and a performer, evaluator, programmer, and institution builder, proven by the establishment of Secretariats for Women, Children, Fertilizer, Nutrition, Population under his Ministry.

Sri Lanka Planning Service was made a professional service in 1985, for which the initiatives and support given by Wickrema were substantial. Accordingly, planners were made responsible for planning to achieve the goals of the respective institutions, formulate policies, strategies, and evaluate the development projects and programmes.

Wickrema was responsible for enhancing human resources among cadres through foreign exposures, which culminated with some officers obtaining post-graduate degrees, some even PhDs, and reaching apex ranks in public services, i.e. Secretaries of Ministries.

Specifically, his contribution to my work when I served as Government Agent, Nuwara Eliya was substantial. He was the guide, mentor, and sometimes savior. His involvement was on behalf of his brother-in-law Minister Gamini Dissanayake. Wickrema was instrumental in planning Nuwara Eliya through the establishment of Nuwara- Eliya Development Commissioners Committee, where I served as Chairman, with professionals as Commissioners. The initial planning was done by the Urban Development Authority.

He was the key organizer of the Spring Festival in Nuwara-Eliya. I remember how he planned the city and revived the Car Racing event, after a lapse of some years. I remember Upali Wijewardena taking part in the first motor car road race. The new Motor-Cross racing event on the newly constructed track was added to the Mahagastota Hill Climb for motor racers. Motor-Cross racing spread to other areas later. He attended these events and enjoyed the great company.

A little-known fact about Wickrema is that the Sri Lanka Council for the Blind (as President) and Sri Lanka Federation of the Blind (as Advisor) still appreciate his services rendered to the blind community, especially in resource mobilization and housing.

He was a person with subtle wit and humour. While teaching, he used this talent, as a student has reminisced, for “easing the pressure and stress of learning.” His lighter vein utterances and behaviour in groups made him a more sought-after teacher, friend, relative, colleague, and boss. His wit and humour depicted by cartoons in political campaigning, (i.e. The Family Tree), left an indelible mark in canvassing votes at the 1977 Elections. It is recycled even today, making Wickrema’s talent eternal.

I am reminded that even regarding efficiency creation he had humorous comments. I remember his “evaluation of the efficiency” of public officers. He used to quip that when asked to produce relevant documentation within two days to send an officer on a foreign scholarship, knowing it would take weeks, he would swear with utmost certainty that the officer would fulfill the requirement within two days. The best litmus test of the efficiency of an officer is the offer of a foreign scholarship! He lamented that such efficiency is lacking to serve the people.

I have a personal regret. Just before I left for India as High Commissioner, he promised to visit me in Delhi with his dear wife Rohini, which he could not fulfill, bidding adieu in weeks. Hence, I missed his company, advice, wit, and humor before departure.

I may say, he was a great student, scholar, academic, educator, public officer, diplomat, social worker, an advisor, innovator, and above all a great friendly human being, who enjoyed life and made others enjoy too, with his friendship, and camaraderie. Sadly, we will miss him forever.

May he attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana!

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Ethiopia: War in Tigray

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By Gwynne Dyer

“Love always wins. Killing others is a defeat,” said Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in June 2018, shortly after surviving a grenade attack at a rally in Meskel Square in the capital, Addis Ababa. How was he to know that just thirty months after saying that he would have to stop loving and start killing?

That’s the problem with being a reforming zealot who becomes Prime Minister: you have to deal with some really stubborn people, and sometimes it’s hard to shift them without a resort to force. That’s why Abiy launched an invasion of Tigray state on 4 November, and so far it’s been doing very well.

“The next phases are the decisive part of the operation, which is to encircle Mekelle using tanks, finishing the battle in the mountainous areas, and advancing to the fields,” Col. Dejene Tsegaye told the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation on 22 November.

Here we are only less than two weeks later, and the federal government’s troops have already captured Mekelle, a city of half a million people that is Tigray’s capital. It’s not clear how many people were hurt or killed in the fighting, but it went so fast that the butcher’s bill can’t be all that high.

In fact, it has all gone so well that Abiy Ahmed’s soldiers are probably thinking they might be home in time for Christmas. When Col. Dejene talked about “finishing the battle in the mountainous areas and advancing to the fields,” however, he was talking about the nine-tenths of Tigray that has seen no federal government troops at all, or at most a brief glimpse as they passed through.

Tigray is exactly the size of Switzerland, with about the same ratio of mountains to fields (although the mountains are somewhat lower). In other words, it is ideal guerilla territory, and a high proportion of the seven million Tigrayans are rural people who know the land. Moreover, they have long experience in fighting the central government’s troops.

That was the old central government, of course: the Communist dictatorship called the Derg, led by Mengistu Haile Mariam, that murdered the emperor and ruled the country with an iron fist from 1977 to 1991.

Tigrayans were the first ethnic group to rebel against Mengistu’s rule. They are only 6% of Ethiopia’s population, but the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was the most effective of the ethnically-based rebel groups that finally defeated the Derg.

The federal government that took over afterwards, called the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), was formally a multi-ethnic alliance. In practice, however, TPLF cadres controlled most senior posts and prospered greatly as a result – a situation that continued until the EPRDF appointed Abiy Ahmed prime minister in 2018.

It was a non-violent revolution, conducted not in the streets but in ranks of the federal bureaucracy. Abiy was the ideal candidate: in religion and ethnicity he is Ethiopian everyman, with a Muslim Oromo father and a Christian Amhara mother. (In person he is Pentecostal Christian, and very devout.)

As a young man Abiy fought in the war against Eritrea; he has served as a senior intelligence official and knows where the bodies are buried; he is well educated and speaks Amharic, Afaan Oromo, Tigrinya and English fluently. His first and most important job was to prise the fingers of the Tigrayan elite off the levers of government without a civil war.

Unfortunately, Abiy’s approach – merging all the parties based on the various ethnic militias into a single ‘Prosperity Party’ – didn’t work. The resentful TPLF cadres refused to join, and gradually withdrew to their heartland in Tigray. They don’t yet openly advocate secession, but they do point out that they have that right under the current federal constitution.

Whether or not the shooting war began with an unprovoked attack by the Tigrayan militia on the federal army’s base in Mekelle at the start of last month, as Abiy’s spokesmen claim, it was bound to end up here. All Tigray’s cities have now been taken by federal troops, but almost none of the rural areas.

This could be a brilliant victory for the federal troops that puts a swift end to the fighting. It’s more likely to be the result of a decision by the TPLF leadership to skip the conventional battles they were almost bound to lose, and go straight to the long and bloody guerilla war that they might eventually win.

That would mean secession, in the end, for they can never win power back in Addis Ababa. The risk is that if the war goes on long enough, other major ethnic groups may break away from Ethiopia as well. Abiy’s loosening of the tight centralised control that prevailed under the emperor, the Derg and the TPLF has already unleashed ethnic and sectarian violence that has rendered 2 million Ethiopians homeless.

Abiy recently got a PhD in peace and security studies from Addis Ababa University, but he’ll be concentrating on the ‘security’ part for the foreseeable future.

 

 

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Safety Equipment and Procedures and Exploding Fire Extinguishes

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by Capt. G A Fernando MBA

gafplane@sltnet.lk

RCyAF, SLAF, Air Ceylon, Air Lanka, SIA, SriLankan Airlines

Former SEP instructor/ Examiner Air Lanka

By law the Regulator Civil Aviation Authority Sri Lanka (CAASL) requires all Airline Crew to annually undergo continuous training and achieving proficiency in Safety Equipment and Procedures (SEP). At the end of the training, also answer a written examination to prove to all and sundry that the particular Flight Crew Member has sufficient SEP knowledge to continue serving in the Cabin or Flight Deck of that Airline, for another year. The SEP questions were relatively easy (no tricks) but each crew member had to score over 80% and carry out mandatory, practical proficiency tests such as operation of aircraft doors and Emergency exits, conduct evacuations, Life Raft operations (in the swimming pool), know the location and use of emergency equipment such as megaphones, Crash Axes, Asbestos Gloves, Emergency Locater Transmitters (ELT’s), the administration of Oxygen, First Aid and use of equipment such as smoke hoods and fire extinguishers to combat Cabin smoke and Fires, The airline is usually delegated to carry out these duties and functions at the behest of the Civil Aviation Authority.

The first year after Air Lanka was established (September 1979), crew members had to go to Singapore Airlines or get the instructors across to Colombo to carry out these checks on behalf of Air Lanka. After about the second year of existence, it was decided that a team SEP instructors/ examiners would be appointed ‘in house’ to carry out this training and mandatory checks. Three of us from the ‘Flight Deck’ crew were appointed to the team. They were First Officer Elmo Jayawardene, Flight Engineer Gerrard Jansz and yours truly. We had, had some experience in crew SEP training in Air Ceylon.

We were sent to the British Airways (BA) Flight Training (Cranebank), UK, during our regular stay overs in London, to undergo refresher training, so that we could incorporate some of the BA curricula in our own (Air Lanka) programs. The then Air Lanka Manager Operations had been an ex BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) Captain. As a direct result of our visit to BA, the then airline doctor (Dr Mrs Sherene Wilathgamuwa) was inducted to the SEP team to lecture the ‘troops’ on not only First Aid but also on delivering babies, with limited facilities on board!  I believe that this information has been extremely useful many times during the last 40 years of Air Lanka. This was not taught to us in Air Ceylon. The training curriculum was developed by the SEP team.  

The early days of Air Lanka wasn’t easy. While an operational profit was made, the ‘debt servicing’ put an unbearable strain on the overall profitability. We had neither a designated training department nor proper equipment. Our ‘wet drill’ constituted jumping into the pool in shirts and trousers for the boys and ‘made up’ Sarees without the ‘fall’ for the Girls, wearing life jackets of course. Initially the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) Katunayake pool was used and subsequently the pools of the two hotels down Katunayake airport road were used till Air Lanka got its own pool. We didn’t even have a permanently deployed Slide/ Raft either for teaching purposes. It all cost money. I was the Instructor in charge of the ‘wet drill’. In contrast SIA I worked for subsequently, had a pool with a ‘wave maker’ to give a realistic experience. There was no doubt Air Lanka at that point of time was ‘pinching pennies’ where crew SEP training was concerned.

To provide fire fighting experience to the Flight Crews we were forced to use regular Industrial Fire Extinguishing equipment to keep the costs down. That was acceptable since the basic fire fighting principles were the same. The fire fighting part of the training was carried out by the Ground Safety Section Instructors who were mainly ex SLAF types. A few months before, Lalantha one of the Chief Stewards was practicing the use of a Carbon Dioxide (CO2) extinguisher on a fire and the extinguisher exploded and flew off his hand, narrowly missing Leone who was just behind him. The on-board extinguishers were much smaller, lighter and more manageable than the industrial ones. A complaint was filed by me, but treated by the ‘Management’ as a one off case! It seemed as if one swallow doesn’t make a summer!  The extinguisher had been certified as serviced. The Administrative Executive in charge of SEP those days was a young man who had a degree in Marine Biology and perhaps was clueless on safety issues and couldn’t champion our cause.  We were all part time Instructors.

The annual recurrent training programme took two days. On one particular day, Chief Stewardess Jayantha and I were the instructors in charge. When it came to the Fire Fighting exercise, we handed over students of our class to the Air Lanka Ground Instructors and proceeded to the parking apron (opposite the Terminal Building), to check out a Lockheed L1011 ‘Tri-Star’ aircraft which was newly leased, by Air Lanka. It was a pre-owned, aircraft that had arrived the day before. Unfortunately, the locations of and the make of emergency equipment in the same type of aircraft (L-1011) differed from airline to airline. Therefore in the name of air safety and standardisation, it was important to resolve matters before the said aircraft saw service on the line on regular revenue flight services. It was a big deal as all Flight Crew had to know by memory as to where the specific locations of safety equipment were, so that when a ‘push’ came to a ‘shove’, no time would be wasted by the crew members involved, looking for these essential items. It could be a matter of life and death.

 I was not too happy sending the participant boys and girls by themselves for fire fighting and had an uneasy feeling. On other hand, our task too was also extremely important. So it was a case of ‘risk management’ and gave in. 

While we were checking out the new addition to our L 1011 Tri-Star fleet, we received a frantic message saying that another water type extinguisher had exploded and the injured had been removed to the Air Force Hospital across the runway to the Northern side.

Jayantha and I rushed to the SLAF Base Hospital in her ‘Mini -moke’ the long way around, up the Airport Road and via the 20th milepost main entrance along the Negombo road and found two crew members injured and in shock. Steward Senaka who had got the wheel shaped handle smack on his face, had injuries in the same shape and Naomal too had some minor injuries. We were assured by the Air Force doctor, Dr Narmasena Wickremasinghe that injuries were not too serious. We stayed there till the arrival of the next of kin who had been informed and went back to Office to meet Mr Wilmot Jayewardena, the Air Lanka Senior Manager Inflight Services.

When Jayantha and I sheepishly walked into his office he gave us the silent treatment initially and then softly declared that being responsible for the wellbeing of the participants, at least one of us Instructors should have been present when fire fighting was going on, even under the supervision of the Ground Safety Instructors. We accepted our mistake and defused the situation. When I look back now I am amazed as to how we coped with such limited resources to keep the National Carrier going. Safety Experts today, recommend that during risky activity, we should trust our ‘gut feeling’. It is usually correct as there is a connection between the brain and the gut resulting in feelings like ‘butterflies’ in the stomach. Needless to say the lesson was learnt.  

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