Sunday, June 04, 2017

Trump and the Paris Agreement

I have been spreading the following moral analogy concerning President Trump's decision to have America leave the Paris Agreement:

[I]President Donald Trump has actually given us all reason to be embarrassed to be Americans.

Imagine a village where an alarm has sounded that the river going through town will flood. The villagers gather to put sandbags along the banks to keep from flooding the town.

The wealthy owner of a large house watches them work, while sitting back drinking lemonade. His house will be flooded, too, if the river breaks over the banks. But he is counting on the hard work of the other villagers to save his home, with no contribution from him.

Or, he will help, if the other villagers will pay him enough to make it worth their while.

I would be acutely embarrassed to be that person. But that person is the United States under Trump.

This analogy is missing one important element. The owner of the house sitting on the porch drinking the lemonade is CONTRIBUTING to the size of the flood. He owns a dam upstream. He has ordered the spillway opened to pour even more water into the river, making the villagers work all that much harder, or forcing them to pay him not to flood the town.

That is the type of "greatness" Trump is aiming for.

It's embarrassing.[/I]

In addition to the points raised in this post, there is a related point to consider.

Imagine that you were somebody living in this town trying to save his home from the flood, working side by side with the others. There, on that porch, sat a man drinking lemonade - refusing to help - and even suggesting that his employees at the dam feed even more water into the river.

How would you feel?

Donald Trump is promoting a great deal of hatred and contempt of the United States. One question that we have reason to ask is: How do they intend to express that anger and contempt?

One of the ways in which they may be expected to express their anger is by simply resolving to have nothing to do with the man sitting on his porch. This could range from refusing to do business with him, to failing to do anything to help protect him if some burglar, vandal, or arsonist (for example) should decide to attack his home.

We would reasonably expect the people in the village in this example to resolve to quit doing business with the man on the porch to whatever degree they are able to do so. They would resolve to take their business to the neighbor who helped them on the dikes, not the selfish man on the porch who not only refused to join them but made their job that much harder. Rather than making America great again, Trump is giving people around the world a good reason to carry out their economic activities with fellow countries who have joined in the fight against global warming and to deny their business to the country who refuses to help.

We would also reasonably expect the people in the village to be a bit less concerned about the fact that somebody in the village may form an intent to rob or vandalize that man's house. After all, they will think to himself, he is only getting what he deserves. In the world today, this means simply not caring to help to prevent a terrorist attack against the United States and not caring one bit about our security. Some of the people in the village may get sufficiently angry that they may carry out such an attack. Others, though they would not conduct such an attack themselves, certainly will not see much reason to put any effort into helping to prevent it. The result is that living in the United States becomes that much more dangerous.

These possible responses may help to explain why several states, cities, and companies resolved to continue to help in the fight against climate change, even as Trump pulls the federal government out of the Paris agreement. These human beings recognize that there is a lot to be gained by joining the others on the banks of the river to fight the rising floodwaters. There is reason to cultivate the good will of the other villagers. It is good for business, and it provides benefits in terms of mutual security. Promoting a culture of mutual cooperation requires that one agree, from time to time, to cooperate.

Of course, one of the manifestations of this culture of cooperation is that members of the community will sometimes choose cooperation for its own sake - merely because it is the right thing to do. Sitting on the porch refusing to contribute, and even taking action that forces the others to work that much harder, can be expected to have some significant costs.

Nobody in the village is going to think that the man sitting on the porch while they work to save the village from the flood is 'great' in any sense of the word. They are going to think that he is a . . . well, honestly . . . that he is an asshole. Because that, in the proper understanding of the term, is exactly what he is proving himself to be. His attitude and his actions will leave him without friends and without help when he needs it most.

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