FIRE, FURY & THE DANGER OF ZERO SUM POLITICS

Photo Credits:Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

 

“Media is personal.It is a series of blood scores .The media in its often collective mind decides who is going to rise and who is going to fall,who lives and who dies.If you stay around long enough in the media eye,your fate,like that of a banana republic despot ,is often an unkind one -a law Hilary Clinton was not able to circumvent.The media has the last word.”

-Michael Wolff

This post should have been  a book review.

When I started reading this book it was to get insight into the Trump Presidency and to get all the juicy details about exactly what could be happening on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,Washington DC,like everyone else I was curious to get into the inner sanctums of the Trump White House.Midway through the book I realized the book was not about that,it was a book about what American politics had become,the politics of self interest.Michael Wolff indeed  had given us a peek into the  Trump White House ,yet if he had changed the characters and location of  this story ,it could be any Presidency somewhere in the world.

It was a revelation of the  world political stage as it is right now,  the role of the media and  our role ,the not so helpless and hapless  minions of  a system we have been caught up in-a zero sum political game of thrones.

In all the discussions I watched on CNN of what was termed as an explosive  book ,the role of the media was never discussed or  talked about.The power of media and how it makes us believe  we are making choices when in fact the choices have already been made for us is something no one touched.Yet,we know media in the USA and in my country has played a role,a big one in the way the politics in these two countries has panned out.

The months before the American elections , if you watched  international news channels,especially CNN,President Donald Trump received a lot of coverage not all of it favorable,actually most of it  negative formed a recurring narrative on most news channels and discussion panels.There was enough time and information to be able to make the choice between President Trump , Hilary or  Bernie Sanders,they chose a former TV Reality Show star (there is nothing wrong with reality TV stars).

Michael Wolff for all the backlash he has received over the book,did say something that pretty much describes how President Trump would like to run the white house when he wrote,“Curiously for a man who seemed to have led a movement based in anger and retribution,Trump was very much(or he believed he was very much a politician of the old stripe-a lets -work-it out-guy.You scratch my back,I’ll scratch yours .He was in his mind,the ultimate tactician,always knowing what the other guy wanted.”

That knowing what the other guy wants is how he was able to get the GOP  nomination and beat Hilary at the polls.He knew and was speaking a language the average American understood,Americans wanted someone who was going to save them,their country and the values they thought their country stood for.Trump’s supporters wanted someone who could make America great again and Trump was speaking a language they were familiar with and could relate to.

He was the ultimate salesman.

The book is not just about Trump’s White House,it is a story about what is happening the world over,politically,it is a battle between “good’ and “evil” .Wolff provides what I consider a perfect description of politics today when he writes,“Politics had seemed to become,even well before the age of Trump,a mortal affair.It was now zero-sum:When one side profited,another lost.One side’s victory was another’s death.The old notion that politics was a traders game,an understanding that somebody else had something you wanted-a vote,goodwill,old-fashioned patronage-and that in the end the only issue was cost,had gone out of fashion.Now,it was a battle between good and evil.” 

That up there describes politics today,zero-sum.

And that is why America ,my country Kenya and many others   the world over are in the mess they are today.

When politics becomes a zero sum  game no one wins.Absolutely no one will ever win if we continue playing politics the way we are doing right now  where our wins are pegged on another person’s or groups loss.We fell into the zero sum trap when we started creating societies where everyone was placed into a particular social,ethnic,tribal or racial group and we aligned our political interests along those groups.

Read this fantastic article in the Washington post by llya Somin on Identity politics and the dangers of Zero-Sum Thinking.

This book is about that kind of politics, it reveals ,to borrow Wolff’s words that politics has become “a discrete business of insular,inbred,incestuous interests.”

Something will have to give if we go on like this and it will not be pretty.

Read the book.

BOOK REVIEW:DOT COMPLICATED

Technology gives us the power to change the world.Lets start by changing ourselves-Randi Zuckerberg

This book by Randi Zuckerberg is a gem  if you social media is one of your interest areas .

Photo source : Zulily.com
Photo source : Zulily.com

Incidentally the book i have has as its cover the exact photo i used for this blog post.

Written by Mark Zuckerberg’s sister, it is the perfect guide to socially navigating the digital age as President of Lucas Film,Kathleen Kennedy says on the book cover.

It is packed full of good and  reasonable advice for newbies on the social media scene as well as experts.

I especially liked the way Randi weaves stories of her life within and outside of Facebook  ,with advice on navigating social media as a parent ,  a career woman and  a business woman.

The book is divided into chapters covering everything from personal use of social media ,to career ,doing  good for other people as well as the the possibilities technology holds for the future..

Since i have a very keen interest in social media,my copy of the book is filled with highlighted text areas of what resonated really well with me.

Some of the moments in the book that stick out for me are when she talks of her  time at Facebook when Randi introduces to us the idea of the the hackathons they had at Facebook.Every month the people at Facebook stayed up all night working on their passion projects which they had to present to the entire company the next day after which they would have a pancake breakfast.

Now that is what i call chutzpah!

Randi also gives us an insider view of why Facebook is such a phenomenal success.

Facebook is incredibly powerful as a service precisely because people use their real names,identities and interests.From the start ,this was one of the  biggest competitive advantages over rival social networking sites.

She reminds us that the value of social media is not in the number of followers we collect but rather in the depth of relationships we build.

It is also not lost on me that she is especially proud of her Jewish heritage and talks about it when she attended the Word Economic Forum in 2010,Davos ,Switzerland .The Forum hosts a Jewish Shabat Dinner to mark the start of the Jewish sabbath and Randi was asked t sing the Yerushalayim shel Zahav( a tribute to the beauty of Jerusalem)

The book  is a reminder that the power of social media is in the  authentic  relationships we build online,those  human connections that  make life so wonderfully worth living.

Have you read the book,share with us your thoughts.

XO,

Ina

BOOK REVIEW:THE CHOSEN

“…the human being struggles with his environment and with the hooks that catch him.Sometimes he masters his difficulties;sometimes they are too much for him.His struggles are all that the world sees and it naturally misunderstands them.It is hard for a free fish to understand what is happening to a hooked one.” – Karl Menninger

How appropriate that Chaim Potok on his dedication page  would start with a quote from  psychiatrist Karl Menninger.

What a way to start of a book that would take us into the minds and lives of 2  Orthodox  Jewish boys growing up in New York,living just blocks away from each other yet each  so different in their beliefs.

The Chosen is a story about two Jewish boys growing up in  Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn ,New York in the 1940’s, totally unaware of each others existence. Until a baseball ball game with an  almost fatal ending  brought them together.

Chaim Potok weaves the story of Danny Saunders and Reuven Malter  in the pages of this book in a spell binding manner that will both  haunt and captivate you.

Danny Saunders is the son of a Reb Saunders the revered Hasidim leader of a Jewish community, while Reuven’s David Malter  father is a Mitnagidim ,both are branches of Orthodox Judaism.

But with very different opinions on how a true Jew should live.

An excerpt from the book when Reb Saunders is explaining why he imposed silence between him and his genius  son

One learns of the pain of others by suffering one’s own pain…….And it is important to know of pain he said.It destroys our self pride,our arrogance,our indifference towards others.It makes us aware of how frail and tiny we are and of how much we must depend upon the Master of the Universe.

The story explores the conflict between faith and  secularism through the stories of these two boys and their fathers.

What do we do when our dreams are in conflict with faith,culture and family obligations ?

The story is especially important today when we have become so intolerant of people whose beliefs are different from us,dress differently,look different maybe even speak differently.

And when Reuven and Danny’s friendship takes them into each others homes and they discover that what they considered strange is  familiar and  that after all human beings want the same things no matter their back grounds.

The story follows the boys and their fathers as they grow up,into the intricacies surrounding Word War Two and the founding of the Jewish state of Israel.

A truly captivating story.

Get the book and find out what happens to Danny and Reuven when they grow up.