Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Did Trump Invent the Shoulder Shrug?

I gave up expecting Trump to say something remotely interesting a long time ago. His descent into the abyss of incoherence is accelerating by the day, be it a result of mental deterioration or an unwillingness to step outside of his adolescent comfort zone.

His body language, however, has fascinated me since he became President. In the Movement Therapy profession, we talk about a person’s ‘movement vocabulary’, similar to a verbal vocabulary. I witnessed the lack of this nonverbal vocabulary when I worked in a state mental hospital, here in Massachusetts. On the locked wards of this asylum, patients moved about like robots, mostly a result of over-medication. They had lost all their capacity to express emotions through movement. Some approached us with a rambling gait, eyes staring at this new apparition in their otherwise monotonous existence, then went back to rocking in their corner, smoking one cigarette after another. In the dark, pea green halls of this medieval place, we witnessed what untreated, overmedicated mental illness can do to a human being. They were the forgotten souls of our profession and the health care system in general.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there is the rich and expressive vocabulary of the dancer, the clown and the mime. The late Marcel Marceau was a nonverbal virtuoso. I invite you to relish this amazing mime in action here: Marcel Marceau I Bip As A Skater [1975] 

With this background in mind, what are we to make of Trump’s nonverbal lexicon? Where does he fit into the spectrum of what is possible for a human being endowed with a body that can convey a practically infinite amount of nonverbal messages? 

Politicize This


As the covid-19 pandemic was starting to affect the US half a year ago, the idiots on the right began to politicize the issue right away. Responding to my  article  Mother Nature?  (March 23, 2020), an anonymous reader wrote the following:

“Tom, following your penchant for statistics, Coronavirus deaths per million population: - Italy 206 - Spain 194 - Belgium 71 - Netherlands 68, France 54 - Switzerland 53 - UK 35 - Sweden 24 - Denmark 18 - Austria 16 - Ireland 14 - USA 12

Thank you President Trump for acting rapidly in blocking European flights!”

He added: “Contrary to your assertion, the death stats show that Western Europe remains the epicenter of the Coronavirus, every other stat is just a question of who measures the most. Besides, when our summer becomes the southern hemisphere’s winter, the southern hemisphere will become the epicenter. While I recognize we all have a problem, my previous point was to show statistically that we have more competent executive branch leadership (reacting faster and minimizing loss) than the other European democracies, and that I personally am grateful that Trump is president rather than the senile idiot the democrats are about to nominate. I would also point out that while Italy by far appears to be the most incompetent and ill prepared of the European nations, at the same time New York which has almost 50% of our Corona cases is ironically led by two Italians named Cuomo and DeBlasio!"   


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Decline and Fall of America

When I came to America in 1960, it towered over the rest of the world economically and politically. It played a dominant and generally benevolent role in the world. It had saved the world from fascism, rebuilt Europe and much of Asia, including its former enemies, and it was containing communism.
After the Vietnam debacle, the US was less sure of itself. By the late 1970s, during the Carter presidency, the country seemed to be in retreat, while the Soviet Union was still on the march. The dominoes seemed to be falling. After Cuba and Vietnam, next to go were Nicaragua, El Salvador, Angola, soon Afghanistan...
The Third World was more sympathetic to the USSR than to the US, which was frequently isolated in forums such as the United Nations. Despite generous foreign aid to dozens of countries, international anti-Americanism was widespread, as was US flag burning in many parts of the world.
While the US and its ubiquitous CIA did engage in some mischief, this country was not morally bankrupt, certainly not so in comparison with its great geo-political communist rival.
Today, of course, the Soviet Union no longer exists.

In the 1970s, America remained by far the richest country in the world. More importantly, the distribution of wealth was much more equitable than what it has become today. The average CEO’s compensation was 20 times that of his employees. Now the ratio is 300 to 1. Taxes were more progressive, Unions were far more powerful, the public sector was not being starved, the US resembled the Western European welfare states more than now. Read more...