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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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Features

Strong on vocals

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The group Mirage is very much alive, and kicking, as one would say!

Their lineup did undergo a few changes and now they have decided to present themselves as an all male group – operating without a female vocalist.

At the helm is Donald Pieries (drums and vocals), Trevin Joseph (percussion and vocals), Dilipa Deshan (bass and vocals), Toosha Rajarathna (keyboards and vocals), and Sudam Nanayakkara (lead guitar and vocals).

The plus factor, where the new lineup is concerned, is that all five members sing.

However, leader Donald did mention that if it’s a function, where a female vocalist is required, they would then feature a guest performer.

Mirage is a very experience outfit and they now do the Friday night scene at the Irish Pub, in Colombo, as well as private gigs.

 

 

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Dichotomy of an urban-suburban New Year

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Ushered in by the ‘coo-ee’ of the Koel and the swaying of Erabadu bunches, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year will dawn in the wee hours of April 14. With houses to clean, preparation of sweetmeats and last-minute shopping, times are hectic…. and the streets congested.

It is believed that New Year traditions predated the advent of Buddhism in the 3rd century BC. But Buddhism resulted in a re-interpretation of the existing New Year activities in a Buddhist light. Hinduism has co-existed with Buddhism over millennia and no serious contradiction in New Year rituals are observed among Buddhists and Hindus.

The local New Year is a complex mix of Indigenous, Astrological, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions. Hindu literature provides the New Year with its mythological backdrop. The Prince of Peace called Indradeva is said to descend upon the earth to ensure peace and happiness, in a white carriage wearing on his head a white floral crown seven cubits high. He first plunges, into a sea of milk, breaking earth’s gravity.

The timing of the Sinhala New Year coincides with the New Year celebrations of many traditional calendars of South and Southeast Asia. Astrologically, the New Year begins when the sun moves from the House of Pisces (Meena Rashiya) to the House of Aries (Mesha Rashiya) in the celestial sphere.

The New Year marks the end of the harvest season and spring. Consequently, for farming communities, the traditional New Year doubles as a harvest as well. It also coincides with one of two instances when the sun is directly above Sri Lanka. The month of Bak, which coincides with April, according to the Gregorian calendar, represents prosperity. Astrologers decide the modern day rituals based on auspicious times, which coincides with the transit of the Sun between ‘House of Pisces’ and ‘House of Aries’.

Consequently, the ending of the old year, and the beginning of the new year occur several hours apart, during the time of transit. This period is considered Nonegathe, which roughly translates to ‘neutral period’ or a period in which there are no auspicious times. During the Nonegathe, traditionally, people are encouraged to engage themselves in meritorious and religious activities, refraining from material pursuits. This year the Nonegathe begin at 8.09 pm on Tuesday, April 13, and continues till 8.57 am on 14. New Year dawns at the halfway point of the transit, ushered in bythe sound of fire crackers, to the woe of many a dog and cat of the neighbourhood. Cracker related accidents are a common occurrence during new year celebrations. Environmental and safety concerns aside, lighting crackers remain an integral part of the celebrations throughout Sri Lanka.

This year the Sinhala and Tamil New Year dawns on Wednesday, April 14, at 2.33 am. But ‘spring cleaning’ starts days before the dawn of the new year. Before the new year the floor of houses are washed clean, polished, walls are lime-washed or painted, drapes are washed, dried and rehang. The well of the house is drained either manually or using an electric water pump and would not be used until such time the water is drawn for first transaction. Sweetmeats are prepared, often at homes, although commercialization of the new year has encouraged most urbanites to buy such food items. Shopping is a big part of the new year. Crowds throng to clothing retailers by the thousands. Relatives, specially the kids, are bought clothes as presents.

Bathing for the old year takes place before the dawn of the new year. This year this particular auspicious time falls on April 12, to bathe in the essence of wood apple leaves. Abiding by the relevant auspicious times the hearth and an oil lamp are lit and pot of milk is set to boil upon the hearth. Milk rice, the first meal of the year, is prepared separate. Entering into the first business transaction and partaking of the first meal are also observed according to the given auspicious times. This year, the auspicious time for preparing of meals, milk rice and sweets using mung beans, falls on Wednesday, April 14 at 6.17 am, and is to be carried out dressed in light green, while facing east. Commencement of work, transactions and consumption of the first meal falls on Wednesday, April 14 at 7.41 am, to be observed while wearing light green and facing east.

The first transaction was traditionally done with the well. The woman of the house would draw water from the well and in exchange drop a few pieces of charcoal, flowers, coins, salt and dried chillies into the well, in certain regions a handful of paddy or rice is also thrown in for good measure. But this ritual is also dying out as few urban homes have wells within their premises. This is not a mere ritual and was traditionally carried out with the purification properties of charcoal in mind. The first water is preferably collected into an airtight container, and kept till the dawn of the next new year. It is believed that if the water in the container does not go down it would be a prosperous year. The rituals vary slightly based on the region. However, the essence of the celebrations remains the same.

Anointing of oil is another major ritual of the New Year celebrations. It falls on Saturday, April 17 at 7.16 am, and is done wearing blue, facing south, with nuga leaves placed on the head and Karada leaves at the feet. Oil is to be applied mixed with extracts of Nuga leaves. The auspicious time for setting out for professional occupations falls on Monday, April 19 at 6.39 am, while dressed in white, by consuming a meal of milk rice mixed with ghee, while facing South.

Traditionally, women played Raban during this time, but such practices are slowly being weaned out by urbanization and commercialisation of the New Year. Neighbours are visited with platters of sweetmeats, bananas, Kevum (oil cake) and Kokis (a crispy sweetmeat) usually delivered by children. The dichotomy of the urban and village life is obvious here too, where in the suburbs and the village outdoor celebrations are preferred and the city opts for more private parties.

 

 

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New Year games: Integral part of New Year Celebrations

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Food, games and rituals make a better part of New Year celebrations. One major perk of Avurudu is the festivals that are organised in each neighbourhood in its celebration. Observing all the rituals, like boiling milk, partaking of the first meal, anointing of oil, setting off to work, are, no doubt exciting, but much looked-forward-to is the local Avurudu Uthsawaya.

Avurudu Krida or New Year games are categorised as indoor and outdoor games. All indoor games are played on the floor and outdoor games played during the Avurudu Uthsava or New Year festival, with the whole neighbourhood taking part. Some of the indoor games are Pancha Dameema, Olinda Keliya and Cadju Dameema. Outdoor games include Kotta pora, Onchili pedeema, Raban geseema, Kana mutti bindeema, Placing the eye on the elephant, Coconut grating competition, Bun-eating competition, Lime-on-spoon race, Kamba adeema (Tug-o-War) and Lissana gaha nageema (climbing the greased pole). And what’s an Avurudhu Uthsava sans an Avurudu Kumari pageant, minus the usual drama that high profile beauty pageants of the day entail, of course.

A salient point of New Year games is that there are no age categories. Although there are games reserved for children such as blowing of balloons, races and soft drinks drinking contests, most other games are not age based.

Kotta pora aka pillow fights are not the kind the average teenagers fight out with their siblings, on plush beds. This is a serious game, wherein players have to balance themselves on a horizontal log in a seated position. With one hand tied behind their back and wielding the pillow with the other, players have to knock the opponent off balance. Whoever knocks the opponent off the log first, wins. The game is usually played over a muddy pit, so the loser goes home with a mud bath.

Climbing the greased pole is fun to watch, but cannot be fun to take part in. A flag is tied to the end of a timber pole-fixed to the ground and greased along the whole length. The objective of the players is to climb the pole, referred to as the ‘tree’, and bring down the flag. Retrieving the flag is never achieved on the first climb. It takes multiple climbers removing some of the grease at a time, so someone could finally retrieve the flag.

Who knew that scraping coconut could be made into an interesting game? During the Avurudu coconut scraping competition, women sit on coconut scraper stools and try to scrape a coconut as fast as possible. The one who finishes first wins. These maybe Avurudu games, but they are taken quite seriously. The grated coconut is inspected for clumps and those with ungrated clumps are disqualified.

Coconut palm weaving is another interesting contest that is exclusive to women. However men are by no means discouraged from entering such contests and, in fact, few men do. Participants are given equally measured coconut fronds and the one who finishes first wins.

Kana Mutti Bindima involves breaking one of many water filled clay pots hung overhead, using a long wooden beam. Placing the eye on the elephant is another game played while blindfolded. An elephant is drawn on a black or white board and the blindfolded person has to spot the eye of the elephant. Another competition involves feeding the partner yoghurt or curd while blindfolded.

The Banis-eating contest involves eating tea buns tied to a string. Contestants run to the buns with their hands tied behind their backs and have to eat buns hanging from a string, on their knees. The one who finishes his or her bun first, wins. Kamba adeema or Tug-o-War pits two teams against each other in a test of strength. Teams pull on opposite ends of a rope, with the goal being to bring the rope a certain distance in one direction against the force of the opposing team’s pull.

Participants of the lime-on-spoon race have to run a certain distance while balancing a lime on a spoon, with the handle in their mouths. The first person to cross the finish line without dropping the lime wins. The sack race and the three-legged race are equally fun to watch and to take part in. In the sack race, participants get into jute sacks and hop for the finish line. The first one over, wins. In the three-legged race one leg of each pair of participants are tied together and the duo must reach the finish line by synchronising their running, else they would trip over their own feet.

Pancha Dameema is an indoor game played in two groups, using five small shells, a coconut shell and a game board. Olinda is another indoor board game, normally played by two players. The board has nine holes, four beads each. The player who collects the most number of seeds win.

This is the verse sung while playing the game:

“Olinda thibenne koi koi dese,

Olinda thibenne bangali dese…

Genath hadanne koi koi dese,

Genath hadanne Sinhala dese…”

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