Our daughter vs Donald Trump: The First 100 Days

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Our daughter was born ten days after Donald Trump’s inauguration. I sometimes wonder if the viral piece I wrote a few days before her birth, in which I predicted an imminent mental breakdown on the part of the new President, was actually more of an expression of anxiety about my own readiness to perform the demanding role of becoming a parent. Although sadly (?) my prediction about Trump has yet to come true (or maybe it has…), our daughter is doing wonderfully, and we’re coping magnificently with being parents, one day (or rather one night…) at a time. I thought this was an opportune moment to reflect on Trump/our daughter’s comparative progress so far in ten key areas.

1. Inauguration

Her speech was a great deal more coherent than anything Trump has come up with in the last three months. It went ‘whiirrrARRRGGGHHHNNNNGGGGGGGGAAARRGGHHH I’M ALIVE!!!!!’. Recently, gratifyingly, she has incorporated cooing noises into her vocal repertoire. This may be an attempt to reproduce the lilting and melodic voice of Paul McCartney (she’s going through a bit of a Beatles phase). When she was extracted she was, to my surprise, covered in all this white stuff, as opposed to her presidential counterpart, who has a strong lifelong preference for orange gunk. When it comes to knowledge of the rights and responsibilities of the President as defined by the Constitution of the United States of America, she’s miles ahead. Where Trump forced both the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General to write letters calling for the sacking of FBI boss James Comey in a desperate and catastrophically misguided attempt to cripple the investigation into his links with Russia, our daughter would have just looked around the room gurgling randomly and harmlessly to herself. OUR DAUGHTER: 10 DONALD TRUMP: 0.

2. North Korea

Given that she is unable to rationalise and is driven solely by the desire for simple selfish gratification, she would be able to relate to the behaviour of both leaders. I read somewhere once that as babies we often wish that our parents would die, because our fury at not having our needs met immediately is not conditioned by any mental conception of what that would imply for our own survival prospects. In a strikingly similar way, it’s possible that neither Kim Jong Un nor Donald Trump have any idea what the consequences of nuclear confrontation would be. OUR DAUGHTER: 10 DONALD TRUMP: 0.

3. Climate Change

She’s not been born into a normal spring. Any one of her cohort has a better and more responsible attitude to the climate crisis than any so-called adult and certainly much more of a mature understanding of basic climate facts and their consequences than anyone in the current US administration. If you asked her whether or not the US should withdraw from the Paris Agreement she’d probably look at you a bit blankly and then might, if you were lucky, give you a massive lopsided grin, one which would, in contrast to Trump’s mangled death beam, give you hope and faith in the future of the human species. OUR DAUGHTER: 10 DONALD TRUMP: 0.

4. Healthcare

Although in theory this is free in Italy, in reality it’s very expensive. You very often have to buy a ‘ticket’ in order to access services. Sadly our daughter hasn’t been able to change the situation in her first hundred days. She would nevertheless understand healthcare policy to be a very complex area, which puts her ahead of Trump, who thought it was all really, really simple. OUR DAUGHTER: 10 DONALD TRUMP: 0.

5. Immigration

Her father (me) is an immigrant, so presumably (although we haven’t yet discussed this in any detail) she feels instinctive solidarity with people who choose or are forced to cross national borders for prolonged periods during the course of their lives. Oddly enough, although Italy is, like all European countries, experiencing a sickening rise in xenophobic sentiment, no one has yet told her to go back where she came from and stop being such a parasite on essential public services. As for her, she’s never uttered the phrase ‘America First’ or talked openly about a ‘Muslim Ban’. OUR DAUGHTER: 10 DONALD TRUMP: 0.

6. Russia

While it’s unclear whether or not Trump has ever met Putin, I can say with some certainty that our daughter has had no contact with the Russian President/failed election meddler. At six weeks old she started grinning, mostly in response to others’ smiles. It’s unlikely she’d recognise Putin’s pseudo-Machiavellian smirk as a positive facial expression, as anything indicating goodwill. OUR DAUGHTER: 10 DONALD TRUMP: 0.

7. Mexico

She was conceived there and has a Mexican name. She would have difficuly grasping the concept of a wall but, like with healthcare, would at least appreciate the logistical challenges in building one between two particularly wide and mountainous countries. Trump is lagging way behind her on this second point. OUR DAUGHTER: 10 DONALD TRUMP: 0.

8. Suspended reduction of Federal Housing Mortgage Insurance Premium rates

Our daughter has no opinion of this and no influence on it that we know of. It’s certainly not her initiative. To be fair, though, I doubt it’s a priority for Trump either, given that it’s got nine words in it and several of them have more than two syllables. OUR DAUGHTER: 10 DONALD TRUMP: 0.

9. Bottle feeding

Trump apparently doesn’t drink alcohol. As Hasan Minhaj pointed out this week, that carries the bewildering implication that all his 3am tweets are written when he is sober. Perhaps one reason for his myriad psychological complexes and mental disorders is a traumatic failure to adjust to the different kinds of flow and teat involved in getting milky-wilky out of a bottle. Our daughter is responding slightly better each day but still has moments when she wants to stress VERY FORCEFULLY that she is AWARE that this bit of transparent plastic is NOT a part of mummy-wummy and she will NOT be accepting it as a permanent replacement. However, knowing the risks failure could one day represent for future global peace and security, we will have to keep insisting. OUR DAUGHTER: 10 DONALD TRUMP: 0.

10. Nappy habits

I’m at ‘work’ at the moment so I don’t know anything about the present contents of my daughter’s nappy. However, taking a quick look at Trump’s Twitter feed it appears that the President needs his diaper changing. OUR DAUGHTER: 10 DONALD TRUMP: 0.

So, on the basis on their performance in key areas over their first 100 days, OUR DAUGHTER gets 100!!! points, and DONALD TRUMP gets a big fat orange despite having had ten more days than her to make a good impression. When I get home this afternoon I’ll give her an extra celebratory helping of milky-wilky from the bottle…or at least, I’ll try to. In the meantime, who on earth is going to be tasked with changing Trump’s nappy now that Nanny Comey’s gone?!

My daughter the footballer

After an almost impossible first night in a hotel with our three-month-old daughter I reassure my wife ‘we’ll get through this. We’re a team’. This analogy only goes so far, however, as one of the team members has no idea she’s part of a squad of players sharing a common objective. For one thing, she doesn’t respond to hand signals and whistles from the touchline and doesn’t even seem able to identify or even see the other players. She also, rather like certain actual footballers, responds to any potential slight, no matter how minor, as though she’s being tortured, and is in the unfortunate habit of screaming to the point of losing her voice when decisions don’t go her way. Also, unlike most professional sports people with a couple of unfortunate exceptions, she appears to exercise no control whatsoever over her bowel functions and will quite happily play on as though she did not have excrement visibly trickling down her legs. Then there’s the fact that at the end of the match she simply refuses to leave the pitch, insisting on staying in the centre circle proudly surveying the increasingly frustrated crowd despite how appallingly she’s perfomed. When she is finally persuaded to go to the changing room she embarrasses herself even more with her appetite for endless amounts of seemingly intoxicating liquid. She also has her equivalents of Jimmy ‘Five Bellies’ Gardner, although in her case the badboy mates who egg her on to even greater heights of excitability and subsequent disgrace go by the names of Mr Gweenewy and Comfy Wabbit. If you add in the fact that, as we’ve now discovered, her behaviour in hotels would shame even a Sheffield United striker, it’s pretty clear that although she may in some ways always be a valuable member of the squad, it’s certainly not her team-playing abilities that make her so. The whole thing makes me feel the deepest sympathy for David Moyes. At least given that she lives in Rome and has a British passport, we might be able to get a few quid for her out of Lazio. She could yet turn out to be the female equivalent of Ravel Morrison.

14 things our beautiful 11-week-old baby daughter has no concept of


My wife and I have recently found ourselves in the position (unique for human beings) of parenting a child. Anyone who was somehow to have (had) such an experience for themselves (as if!) would soon understand that one of its most mystifying and mind-expanding aspects is wondering just what on earth is going on in the head of one’s child during her interactions with us and the world, given her total lack of basic mental concepts. Just in case there are, unbeknownst to us, ‘other’ ‘parents’ out there or anyone wondering just what this unprecedented and unrepeatable experience must be like, I have taken it upon myself to share some thoughts.

1. Self-image
At the moment our daughter is just a mishmash of uncontrollable sensations and urges. She has no sense of herself as a whole integral being and hence no mental picture of how absurd she looks when she’s trying to stuff her fist into her mouth because she hasn’t (despite my very best efforts to help her) worked out what her thumb’s for yet. For all she’s concerned she might look like a flamingo, or a duck-billed platypus, or Alf.

2. Us
We think we ‘know’ her. We believe we have a relationship. We clearly do, but it’s obviously not the one we imagine. To her we are both gods and monsters, except she has no concept of either. She still has no notion of the separation between her body and other objects. It’s all just one infinite floaty wobbly porridge of varying shades, sounds, textures, tastes and temperatures with currents flowing in various directions at varying speeds. Some lumps of whatever-it-is provide cuddles and/or milky-wilky at irregular intervals or can be made to do so if sucked on or shouted at in the right way. The two blobs of porridge that float around her the most seem to be particularly obliging. One of them clearly is somehow connected to the origin of milky-wilky while the other is a good source for cuddles somehow related to particular sleepy-deepy-inducing combinations of rhythms and melodies.

3. Words
We’ve invented a vocabulary for her to use: milky-wilky, sleepy-deepy, tiredy-wiredy… Some of it must be going in; if she can’t yet recognise the gist of the question ‘have you done a big poo?’ it’s not for want of input. No one wants to talk about the intellectual acuity of a newborn child. The conclusions drawn from the available evidence are too depressing. Her mental range is not that not much more than that of an reasonably-educated adult banana. Nonetheless she is fast developing her own language, one that we don’t understand. Let’s hope it doesn’t turn out to be Business German. In the meantime all my attempts to get her to precede every utterance with ‘As a baby…’ have so far been unsuccessful.

4. Inside/outside
We take her for walks and rides to unfamiliar places and she doesn’t have any idea if or when she’ll ever be back to the sights, smells and sounds she most recognises. Some sense of home/not home must be developing at some level and must be connected to warm place/place where they might try and force you to wear a hat. It seems to involve a huge and touching amount of trust given her absolute vulnerability to our caprices and whims.

5. Colours
Her colourscheme at present is apparently monochrome with a bit of red creeping in. All toys and clothes for newborns might as well be in shades of grey. We took her to the beach and tried to get her to marvel in the combination of gold and blue but for all that she’s concerned it might as well be a badly tuned-in game of snooker from the early days of TV.

6. Animals
Pretty much all her clothes have pictures of animals on. She’s constantly surrounded by and adorned in images of owls, pigs, rabbits, giraffes and elephants. Trying to explain this to her is very moot indeed (see 7.).

7. Images
Even if she could recognise a giraffe the notion of visual representations is quite some way off. She’s a useful source of inspiration for philosophical reflections on what the relationship between a 2d painting of some flowers and some actual flowers is. Even if she knew what a cow was, pointing at a tshirt and claiming it went ‘moo’ would only serve to bamboozle the poor little thing. I’m planning to wait until she’s at least 18 months old to read her ‘Il processo semiotico e la classificazione dei segni’ by Umberto Eco, after which I think such things will begin to fall into place.

8. Donald Trump
Lucky her.

9. Water (the drink)
This is a very odd one. She often looks like a thirsty human being, and when she’s in the baby bath she sometimes tips her head with some curiosity towards its contents, but she never actually cries out of thirst. I think.

10. Shame
It’s hard to believe that this is not why she’s crying. So much of what she does is (from our perspective) so obviously embarrassing. If I soiled myself as much as she does…In suppose this is where a certain cultural relativism should be actively encouraged.

11. Irony
As her parents it’s natural for us to impute a knowingness to her expressions and gestures. It’s very hard to remember that when she raises her eyebrow a la Neil Tennant or responds to my attempts to contextualise specific moments in the career of Prefab Sprout by yawning with apparent archness she’s doing so without irony. In much the same way it seems odd that she’s seemingly unaware that our immediate mimicry of her expressions, gestures and noises is a form of maximally affectionate piss-taking.

12. Night/Day
To be fair her understanding of this distinction is now approaching advanced level. Maybe she couldn’t do an MA in the subject but she could probably get through a degree in one of the less demanding universities. She certainly has a good enough IELTS level to get onto a presessional course at Middlesex.

13. Silence and Stillness
Despite what adult yoga enthusiasts like to pretend, there is really no such thing. We are farting, fidgeting creatures from the moment we are born. Her hobby is lying on the bed snorting and burping while waving her arms and legs about like a beached seaturtle on an all-inclusive package holiday. Her range of impromptu grunts, squeaks and yelps mean that we often spend more than half the night lying awake listening to check that she’s actually asleep, because if she isn’t it means we won’t sleep. Irony.

14. Toys.
Her toys are really ours in this role-play. Putting on a silly voice to play at being a representation of an animal she’s never seen and which doesn’t make human noises in any case would be a rich source of confusion if she had a grasp of any of the concepts involved. Thus we become children in the act of raising a child, which to my delight and for the first time in my life I recognise as a living example of the dialectic: as we change her, she changes us. Who would have thought that a slightly-less-than-three-month-old baby could teach you a concept as difficult (and also as simple) as that?!

I try to interest my two-month-old daughter in the music of The Fall

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In what must have been September 1985 (when I was 13) I started seeing the above image on posters around my hometown of Sheffield. I wasn’t clear if it was advertising music or politics. Subsequently I started reading the music press, in which Mark E. Smith’s ensemble were ever-present. For around seven years, from 1987 (when they had their first Top 40 single) to 1993 (when they had a Top Ten album), you could legitimitely call him a pop star.

I tried hard with The Fall. At one point I ‘owned’ (what a quaint concept!) all of the albums from ‘Extricate’ to ‘Middle Class Revolt’, but I couldn’t call myself a fan. His manner on and off record was wilfully obtuse, his public statements drunk and ornery, his lyrics oblique and the music mostly discordant. There was the occasional glimpse of a more lilting and reflective side to their work which appealed to me, but overall the cut-up-William Burroughs/indied-up-Captain Beefheart mixup left me, if not cold, then certainly not warm enough to qualify as a Proper Fall Fan.

At the same time, I’ve always had a sneaking regard for real fans of the group. It seemed like a genuine sub-culture. The congregation at Fall gigs (I must have seen them three or four times) shows a stubborn attachment to something difficult-to-like that I find endearing and admirable. It seemed like a really cool club to belong to and I kind of wished I’d shown more curiosity back in 1985, when I was a disaffected schoolchild looking for an identity. Maybe if I’d gone for ‘Bend Sinister’ instead of ‘Please’ or ‘The Frenz Experiment’ instead of ‘Bobby Brown: The Remixes’ I would have gone on to become cool.

It’s a cliché whose truth I’ve recently had occasion to observe that all parents want their (now our) children to experience what we never could. In relation to The Fall I left it too late. I’d like to give my own daughter the chance to rectify that mistake on my behalf.

So far, although she’s been responding with animation to the music that I’ve exposed her to, it’s mostly been pretty accesible stuff like Prefab Sprout and Belle & Sebastian. Nursery rhyme pop, if you like. Twee stuff. (Or, given that we’re in 2017, snowflake music.) Now she’s two months old I think it’s time for her to start branching out. (Plus I think that lots of their songs are genuinely great, whether or not that’s deliberately the case I’m never quite sure.)

For my purposes I’ve chosen a series of tracks which I personally love (or at least don’t mind) and have chosen a time when her mum is out to avoid any unnecessary arguments about inappropriate childrearing techniques. I have provided a Spotify playlist should you wish to repeat the experiment with your infant – in the case of emergencies, go to track 12.

  • ‘Totally Wired’. This is one of the group’s early singles, very much a post-punk product with jagged edges. I was a bit late for post-punk, being born in 1972, but I did grow up listening to the John Peel Show, so the abrasiveness of the music is something I appreciate. To say that my daughter would struggle to tell the difference between Devo, Magazine and Wire is no exaggeration, because she was born in January 2017. The phrase ‘it’s like punk never happened’ was rarely better employed. Hence she struggles to get past this first hurdle. Although she neither starts screaming or falls asleep, she does start moving her head in a slightly disturbingly frenetic manner, one which suggests the grating guitar is getting on her incipient nerves. We have to abandon the attempt after one minute and eleven seconds in case her head falls off and we end up on the front of Woman’s Weekly looking sorrowful and accompanied by the headline ‘TOTALLY WIRED: I lost my baby at two months because I was writing a tongue-in-cheek online thing about The Fall’.
  • ‘Hex Enduction Hour’ is (according to those who know about these things) one of the Fall’s very greatest 45 minutes*. ‘The Classical’ is tuneful and the baby perks up (she’s in a jolly mood due to a recent infusion of milky-wilky). Unfortunately as soon as the second track (‘And the day’**) starts she goes puce and makes it clear why Fisher Price never use The Fall to soundtrack their products. There’s too much going on and from a newborn perspective it’s an audio nightmare. I quickly change to ‘Billy’ by Prefab Sprout, which she’s heard around 300 times, and once I’ve taken advantage of a pause for breath to angle her miniscule ear towards the speaker she stops bawling immediately. Mark E. Smith 0, Paddy McAloon 1.
  • ‘Victoria’. This feels like a bit like cheating because it’s a straightforward version of a Kinks song which The Fall covered in 1987, and which gave them a top 30 hit. It’s a cheerful if jingoistic romp and goes down extremely well with the baby, who takes very kindly to being bobbed around the living room in a lively BUT NOT IN ANY WAY DANGEROUS manner.
  • ‘Edinburgh Man’. Always a personal favourite, I’m hoping that this single-handedly turn her into a lifelong fan. She looks quite wistful, like she’s reminiscing about long-ago visits to the festival in Auld Reekie. Whatever she is thinking, it’s probably not that, but I add this to the mental list of songs to play when we need her to calm down a bit. Thanks, Mark.
  • ‘Bill is Dead’. I wonder what Mark E. Smith was like as a baby. Mine falls asleep immediately both times I play this and misses the epically tender bit at the end. One day if she ever hears the Happy Mondays she might notice that this sounds a bit like them slowed down.
  • ‘The Mixer’. This is an extremely accessible and fun conventional pop song. They’re aren’t any Fall songs which sound like The London Boys, but this one has got handclaps on it. My high hopes are dashed, however, because my wife reminds me that it’s bath time and after that she (the baby) falls fast asleep for seven hours. I’m feeling pretty knackered myself so I’m not about to wake her up so I can play her ‘The Mixer’ by The Fall.
  • ‘Free Range’. Released in 1992, this seems to be about the European Union in the year when borders opened up. I feel pretty sure that given his relentlessly chippy persona Mark E. Smith would turn out to be in favour of Brexit, but as it happens he seems to have been uncharisterically silent on the topic, although he did keep his end up by saying some quite twatty things about refugees last year.  Sadly I don’t remember anything the baby did when this was on, but she did seem to quite like ‘Birmingham School of Business School’ from the same album, maybe because for the first time she was able to relate to the lyrics, as the opening lines go ‘wa wa waa wa wa waa wa wa wa wa wa’. Maybe it was one of the very first songs that Mark E. Smith wrote.
  • ‘Reformation’. One of the few Fall songs from the last twenty years that I know and like. A curious thing about The Fall is that although the singer doesn’t seem to do much apart from write lyrics, drink alcohol and periodically sack the other members of the band, they do maintain a distinctive but varied sound. This one is almost metallish in its ferocity, so I play it quite quietly in order to avoid any disputes of the aforementioned variety. If you didn’t know that newborn babies could be nonplussed, you do now.
  • ‘Facebook Troll’***. In doing ‘research’ for this piece the title of this one caught my eye. It’s actually two songs because it’s medleyed with one called ‘No Xmas for John Quay’. I can’t make head or tail of the lyrics and the music is shit. Maybe when she’s a bit older my daughter will be able to explain to me what it means. For the time being she stares at one of the speakers for a bit in a way that suggests her nappy needs changing.

The result, then: Inconclusive. To close, just in case my daughter should ever come to read this, I’d like to paraphrase the ending of ‘London Fields’ by Martin Amis (someone who’s been looking almost as decrepid as Mark E. Smith himself): So if you ever heard something, when you weren’t even two months old, like catchy-but-dissonant post-punk music, a bit like the Stooges but fronted by a verbally incontinent and cantankerous Mancunian drunkenly shouting half-remembered chunks of HP Lovecraft short stories mixed with items from his shopping list, it was The Fall. It was The Fall“.

* ‘Hex Enduction Hour’ is actually 60 minutes long.

** Spotify happened to be on shuffle.

*** Spotify gets the title wrong, it’s actually called ‘Fibre Book Troll’.

Thank you to members of the excellent Fall online forum at http://z1.invisionfree.com/thefall/index.php?showforum=7 for occasional fact- and spellchecking.

(Incidentally, the Bobby Brown album I referred to wasn’t actually called ‘Bobby Brown: The Remixes’ but ‘Dance!…Ya know it!’.

That last correction did not come from the Fall online forum.)

I’ve thought of a great way of dealing with the “alt-right”. It’s called “shush-pat”.

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Jacques Lacan said of the student revolutionaries of 1968 they were looking for a new father. By contrast, the so-called alt-right appear to be seeking someone to breastfeed them. In this excellent lengthy article about hanging around with fanboys of that pro-pedophile sociopathic freak Milo, Laurie Penny writes:

I enjoy most respectful conversation, and these boys are scrupulously polite to me. They were polite to me a month earlier when I slept on their tour bus — right until a door closed between me and them, and they immediately started talking loudly, to each other, about the crass and anatomically implausible things they wanted to do to me. Intellectually, they must have known that I could hear them, but these kids grew up on the Internet, the world’s locker room, where if you can’t see a woman, she doesn’t really exist. The one grown man on the bus started yelling at them to go the hell to sleep — “there’s a girl back there!”—and they yelled back that they’d let me sleep if I let them “suck my titties.” It’s no surprise to hear that they’re still yearning for the teat, but these babies had best be careful where they go slobbering for the milk of human kindness. I’m just about dried up.

Now it turns out she was spot on: milk is indeed a Thing among alt-righters. Nazis have been using it as an emblem, because it’s ‘pure’ and, er, Asian people don’t drink much of it. They have apparently been pouring it over each other in celebration of its and their ‘whiteness’. This taste for moomoojuice seems to have inspired this remarkable work of art. Where Hitler called for Lebensraum, his latest disciples are after milky-wilky.

It eloquently demonstrates the infantile nature of the whole project. They want someone to mother them. Perhaps Le Pen fits the bill, or maybe Trump himself, given the famously female cadences and rhythms of his speech. It also explains why they have a thing about cartoons. Their undeveloped brains and nascent eyesight are unable to deal with anything more cognitively demanding, hence their emotional attachment to a white supremacist equivalent of Peppa Pig and Teletubbies (one which happens to be green, but still). There’s also something distinctly ‘Lord of the Flies’ about their inhouse media outlet, Breitbart. And as Laurie Penny points out they, like punks, have no actual understanding of what Nazism is, they’re just trying to annoy adults by any means necessary.

As it happens I am currently undergoing a crash course in dealing with infant hysteria. I am developing my skills in calming down my six-week-old daughter and sending her to sleep. Her screaming has been honed by evolution to be as distressing as can be, as she alone has no means of dealing with hunger, tiredness or discomfort. Her screeching, like that of the überbrats of the new far-right, has no actual meaning beyond that.

Luckily there’s a solution (beside feeding her, naturally): shush-pat. This technique, invented by the currently ubiquitous childcare guru Tracy Hogg, consists of tapping her firmly on the back while saying ‘shush’. It’s simple and it works. With (sometimes immense) repetition it soothes and comforts her. Eventually her eyes close and her breathing slows. She’s totally relaxed which means we can be too (actually we lie awake for hours worrying that she might explode into fury at any moment, but you get the point).

How would this work with the alt-right? It’s hard to say. I personally have no inclination whatsoever to cuddle Steve Bannon, and although Trump himself appears desperately in need of a breastfeed I’m not about to lift him out of his cot and hand him to my wife. In any case the most outspoken Trump supporters (of whom the angry young men of the alt-right are a self-styled postmodern Hitler Youth) only exist online, where they trade in a currency of memes, mostly originating on 4chan (“the internet’s hate speech hit factory”). Most can only communicate in bright, colourful images with slogans written in big letters. Shush-pat could be an effective antidote to their unsolicited and unwarranted venom and denial, whether they happen at that particular moment to be be sticking up for rape or torture or murder or pedophilia. These are, after all, not rational adults. They are no more open to reasoned arguments and the sober presentation of factual evidence than a hungry newborn baby is. They are, in fact, not post-factual but pre-conceptual. They are screaming for attention and consolation and they need to be told, patiently but firmly, to shut up. I offer the above hastily-assembled collage as a contribution to the cause.

Why I absolutely love Prefab Sprout

Any music-loving parent hopes that their kids will inherit their musical taste, so I’m delighted to report that my daughter has developed a appreciation for Prefab Sprout which echoes my own. Inevitably a few of the jazz-influenced chord changes on ‘Swoon’ (1984) threw her a bit on a first listen, some of the more obtuse lyrics on ‘Jordan: The Comeback’ (1990) are a bit over her head and she found the sentiments of ‘The Sound of Crying’ (1992) a bit saccharine, but then to be fair she is only five weeks old.

She’s already more of a fan than some of the people on the Prefab Sprout online forum. Last week an associate of  the Sprouts’ frontman Paddy McAloon uploaded a video to Youtube in which, accompanied only by an acoustic guitar,  Paddy sings a moving lament which celebrates the most inclusive and welcoming aspects of US society at a time when its worst instincts are to the fore. Some fans in the ‘Sproutnet Community‘ were quick to dismiss its platitudinous appeals to the spirit of ‘liberal humanism’ (urgh! humans!!!). It seems strange that someone could spend 25 years following the Prefabs, putting up with Paddy writing albums called things like ‘Let’s Change the World With Music’ (2009) in the forlorn hope that he’ll some day release one called ‘Isn’t it about time we sent some gunships to deal with those so-called refugees for once and for all’, but this is, after all, the internet and no one nowadays wants to be accused of being a ‘snowflake’.

My daughter also responded in an unusual way to a song clearly designed to bring a tear to the eye: she stopped crying. For four minutes she listened in what I take to be wonder but may have just been a temporary absence of gastric discomfort. She has also reacted very well to being gently swayed round the living room to some of the more lilting moments on ‘Steve McQueen’, and even managed to get through a good 12 minutes of ‘I Trawl the Megahertz’ without bawling her eyes out for even more milky-wilky.

As for myself, I’ve been a fan of Prefab Sprout since 1988, when I was 17, at a time in my life when I was trying to come to terms with my inner snowflake. I bought all four albums in one day, probably in response to a review by some absolute genius in Melody Maker. Their unabashed erudition mixed with shameless appeals to the heartstrings twanged a very resonant minor chord in my sensitive teenage soul. That, in fact, is the theme of one of the songs on ‘From Langley Park to Memphis’ (1988) (‘Enchanted’). It was apparently inspired by the feeling that nothing again strikes you with the same force as it does when you were 17.

Although Paddy himself is not as fresh-faced as he appeared in their commercial heyday, there remains something entirely free of cynicism in the view of the world expressed in his songs. It is heartfelt, earnest and enormously sweet without any aftertaste of bitterness. From ‘Swoon’  to ‘Crimson/Red’ (2013) by way of the unembarrassable AOR of ‘The Gunman and Other Stories’ (2001), there is a wide-eyedness to his work which is, for people like me who recognise him as a full-on no-holds-barred actual songwriting genius, relentlessly endearing and comforting. He is a magnificent lyricist and can do things with a succession of key changes that very few bar Steven Sondheim and George Gershwin have done before him.

There are so many great Prefab Sprout songs that I’m not going to list them. If you do appreciate or don’t know their music you will enjoy the playlist that follows this piece. Sadly Spotify doesn’t feature one of Paddy’s very greatest moments, so I urge you to click here and take twenty one minutes out of your wonderful/impossible life to listen to it. It comes from an extraordinary album (‘I Trawl the Megahertz’, 2003) which was famously killed stonedead by the Guardian’s heartless decision not to review it*, but which in a far better world would have become the new national anthem of the human race. The rest is a personal selection of some of the most moving and inspiring songs ever, ever written. I hope you enjoy it as much as my daughter does. Well, seems to.

* Serious Sprout fans are still holding out for a Chilcott-style inquiry into this sorry episode.

10 lessons from one month of successful parenting

An old joke has it that if you’re thinking of having a baby, first get a plant. If you can keep it alive for a month, try a cat. If after a month it hasn’t run away and you haven’t starved it to death, then think about a human partner. If after a month…etc.

Well, although I’ve always been crap at remembering to water plants and the only cat I’ve ever had did actually run away, me and my wife have now survived a whole month of having full adult responsibility for a proper human baby, which is a minor milestone worth celebrating. The last 32 days have, to be sure, contained some of the most difficult moments of our lives. After two nights I am happy to admit that I was actually going insane and wanted to take her back to the hospital until we could work out this whole screaming-sleeping equation. At 5am, after five hours of various white noise apps, cooing, shushing, pushing the pram back and forth like a deranged polar bear in a zoo, reasoning, googling ‘STOP NEWBORN CRYING’ (a secular form of prayer, one about as practically helpful and easy to interpret as the foreboding silence of God), we spent forty minutes trying to disengage the top bit of the pram so we could return her to the Maternity Department at Città di Roma and get them to stop her making all that noise

It’s also, of course, been a joyous experience. The baby is hilarious, an endless source of uproarious entertainment. One of my favourite tricks to play on her (one she’s sadly now got wise to) is to pretend my nose is a nipple. When she’s having a tantrum she looks like Phil Collins doing a drum solo while suffering the after-effects of some dodgy fondue. And the faces she pulls while waking up suggest she may have a bright future in Gilbert & Sullivan revivals.

Nevertheless, here are ten lessons I’ve learned over the last 32 days and (it seems like) 640 nights:

  1. While swaddling may have worked for Moses, it does nothing for our child. Luckily she doesn’t seem to suffer from the dreaded Startle Reflex (which apparently causes most unswaddled babies to wake up pretty much every hour on the dot), which means I haven’t actually gone through with my late-night threat to take the so-called Miracle Swaddling Blanket back to the shop, wrap the person who sold it to me up in it and set them on fire.
  2. On the other hand, as promised by the current pandit of getting-them-to-go-to-bloody-sleep Tracy Hogg, shush-pat works. You have to do it for at least twenty minutes and it helps if you do so in a dark room because otherwise she keeps her eyes wide open to take in how amazing everything is. Reducing stimulation is also a good way for me to calm down. One exhausted 4am looking into her eyes I had the paranoid (but not irrational) sensation of looking at myself, and a feeling that our souls were locked into a battle of eternal wakefulness.
  3. It’s not clear whether it’s an urban myth, but I’m happy to go along with the internet fairy tale that Dutch babies sleep more. It reflects a no-nonsenseness that I associate with that hedonistically austere people, and which I admire in preference to silly speculation about what hour Madame might like to be served breakfast. A newborn baby doesn’t have habits or tastes. Without wanting to sound like Dr. Moreau, she’s a blank slate on which we can inscribe our own preferred behaviours. As to her current level of intelligence, I’ve not been able to find out much. I’ve read in several places that a two-year-old baby apparently has the same cognitive sophistication as an adult chimpanzee. With regard to newborns, researchers tend to be coyer. Maybe a lot of them have newborn kids and it’s just too depressing to report that their mental prowess lies somewhere between that of a large peanut and a small hamster. At least we can take comfort in the idea that even if our child never learns to read and write, she could still aspire to high political office, as long as she has a sex change and dyes her skin bright orange, that is.
  4. If there’s one insight I’ve gained is that if your baby is eating and sleeping, you have no reason to panic. For the first few days we, like all new parents, worried that she wasn’t feeding properly, but then we found out how very much weight she’d gained and were Very Pleased With Ourselves, although I have to confess that I then ended up googling ‘infant gigantism’, just in case.
  5. Her existence is a secret from her, one she’s not even close to getting. Donald Winnicott famously wrote that there’s ‘no such thing as a baby’. She’s just a cuddly jumble of impulses with no consciousness of how they fit together. ‘She’ is our invention in more than a physical sense, and will be for some time to come.
  6. Her screeching is as distressing as it can possibly be, having been refined over a period of 100,000 years. It was terrifying at first, then we realised it’s just her equivalent of ‘have we got any nuts’, ‘when was the last time we ordered a pizza’ or ‘I’m absolutely mortified to have to tell you this, but I’ve afraid I’ve soiled myself. Again’.
  7. I was worried about our neighbours, given that the people downstairs once asked us to stop using the floor on Saturday mornings. As it happens, no one has knocked on a door asking us to shut up our screaming child. It’s unlikely that anyone ever has done such a thing. It would demand an almost alt-right level of social autism.
  8. It’s very hard not to impute human thoughts to her spontaneous facial expressions, particularly to what appears to be the curious mix of embarrassment and defiance that appears when she fills her nappy four seconds after it’s been changed. Also, when she closes her eyes when I’m doing shush-pat, it’s difficult not to suspect that she’s merely pretending to be asleep. Her face at such times sometimes looks a bit patronising, like sure, dad, you’ve made me go to sleep, like well done yeah.
  9. I used to suffer from anxiety about things that didn’t matter. For example: for about six years in my early 20s I worried that I was going bald. It was the only thing I thought about between the ages of 21 and 27. I would judge everyone I met on how bald they were compared to how old they might be as against how bald and thus old I thought they might think I was. So the information I was getting in the run-up to the birth made the whole prospect quite daunting. Everybody tells you that you’re about to step through a portal into a world of pure mortal terror. From the moment the pregnancy was confirmed, I paranoically assumed I would drop and break her at some point, or accidentally snap off one of her limbs while nappy-changing. Then there was the concern that my experience of parenting might be like that of the hapless father in James Joyce’s story ‘A Little Cloud’, beset by panic and angst at his failure to calm a screaming child. As it turns out, my attacks of anxiety (so far…) have been pretty much restricted to the occasional 3am tantrum (mine rather than hers). It turns out that both she and I and her hero of a mum are more physically and emotionally robust than any of us feared. The baby herself is an actual embodiment of Schopenhauer’s Will, the life force that animates all matter. She knows how to survive – we’re just here to serve her capricious needs.
  10. Just in case anyone takes the last bit as a worrying sign that I may have been spending the last month sternly reading volumes of 19th century philosophy while a newborn baby screams herself inside out in the background*, I’m happy to reassure them that I actually read about Schopenhauer in a book called ‘Louis CK and Philosophy’, which was considerably less mentally taxing. While previous generations of parents have relied on Hogg, Winnicott, Dr. Spock or Captain Kirk for their insights into how-to-parent, I find his comedy to be an endless source of comfort and wisdom. I’m sure it will come in handy in the years to come, especially when, as it inevitable, she starts to ask us difficult questions.

However, the single-most important thing I’ve come to realise through this whole experience, though, the insight that has more than any other enlightened me with regard not just to infant life, but also in terms of all that we see, think and feel as human beings, is that…oh wait, I’ve got to go. The baby’s just started crying.

 

* Just for the record, I wrote most of this at ‘work’.

Some more thoughts on how we come to know ourselves

I’ve been thinking recently about consciousness, about how we come to be aware of ourselves and of the world. In a passage which I think can also be taken as a broader metaphor for how we develop our perceptions of reality, Karl Marx somewhere describes the workings of the economic system (capitalism) in the following terms: the enormous machine is housed inside a building which we can never enter. We can only look through a number of tiny windows – inevitably, only one at a time – to surmise how the whole apparatus might work.

(He might go on to say that we can also study what the machine produces, which is to say immense wealth on the one hand and immeasurable misery on the other. He might say that, but unfortunately I can’t track down the quote.)

The following, from the pediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, describes the view from the inside:

“At the very beginning, the infant is in a state of ‘primary unintegration’: unconnected feeling states and without even a rudimentary ego.”

In one of his most famous quotes, Winnicott also says that “there is no such thing as a baby” – there is only a collection of needs that must be met by the baby’s environment, which in the very early stages is its mother. It’s mainly through the relationship with her that the infant develops a sense of itself as a unified being.

In both cases, the first from outside and the second from within, we can’t perceive a unity. In developing our self-consciousness we rely on others’ reflections of ourselves to develop our sense of who we are. We learn about ourselves by looking at others, particularly when they’re looking at us. Where we feel a muddle of physical and mental sensations, they perceive a unity. For Lacan, the mirror stage is when (starting around twelve months) we start to recognise externally-generated images of ourselves. Some people get stuck in this phase, never surpassing their obsession with their own reflections.

It’s a staggering experience to witness the first flickerings of the awakening of consciousness. In the beginning our brand-new daughter was just a jumble of nerve endings united by a vague sense of need. Then she learned that she has a voice, two organs that let in light, a mouth and the opposite of a mouth. She still has little use for her hands; her favourite part of herself are her breasts, which she has no way of knowing aren’t part of ‘her’ body. She’s very much in the phase of not knowing she exists and (although her eyes are not yet able to focus) she looks to us for clues about what she is. We will tell her what and who she is, and she will tell us what and who we are.

In fits and starts I’ve been reading the novel ‘How to be both’ by Ali Smith, which describes the flowering of adult consciousness in a teenager in the midst of the brutalising world of social media. Our daughter is (hopefully) tens of thousands of days away from (whatever survives of) that, although our initial plan of keeping all connected devices out of her sight proved to be absurdly unrealistic. (I’ve tried to explore these issues here). The fact that nowadays so much of our notion of who we are and what we are worth is mediated by these black mirrors means that we obsessively try to control what we share of ourselves and what is shared of us in order to create a self-portrait we can live with, or at least one that doesn’t trouble or shame us too much.

It’s interesting, therefore, to consider what perceptions visitors to this website (the overwhelming majority of whom haven’t met me in person) receive of me as an individual, and how my perceptions of their (your) perceptions affect my perception of myself. (I’ve tried to articulate the relationship between self-consciousness and social-media-as-spectacle here.) It’s startling to realise that tens of thousands of people are simultaneously reading your thoughts. Most will just be fleeting visits but it’s gratifying to read the extremely thoughtful and often bewilderingly generous comments of those who say they’ll be back – after all, every creative act is an attempt to create unity in the form of the community of those who experience it. As for the experience of having an article go viral the week before my first child arrives, it’s thanks to my daughter that my head is still attached to my shoulders. Anything that can happen online is inevitably of secondary importance when compared to the birth of a new human being.

We also learn who we are through the mass media, which teach us morality tales about who we should and shouldn’t be and how we should and shouldn’t behave. A lot of those offered up for public approval and/or opprobrium are paranoid and/or sadistic caricatures, grotesquely insecure narcissists who seem to have got stuck in the mirror stage and who depend on media exposure to feed their bloated but poorly-nurtured and hence ultimately insatiable egos. I hope that what I write here isn’t perceived (that you don’t perceive it) as a manifestation of any burgeoning megalomania on my part, but rather as an honest (albeit from now on more occasional) attempt to usefully explore aspects of our shared reality and, in doing so, create a community of those who share those perceptions. As for any impulses I might harbour towards world domination, I confidently expect to take first prize in the World Nappy-Changing Championships to be held later this year. I just hope that I won’t fall asleep on the podium.

Why I write (but won’t be doing so much of it in the near future)

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“There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall” – Cyril Connolly

One of the main things you’ll find on this site is a collection of pieces inspired by visits to Mexican cities and places I visited during our year in Mexico. They consist mostly of observations and reflections which I hadn’t seen written down elsewhere, and which I therefore take to have something original about them. Some of them I’m very pleased with, others are a bit silly, and most have very little to do with the city in question. I hope they will not be taken as failed pieces of travel journalism, as that wasn’t my intention in writing them.

I’ve always found the thought of writing somewhat daunting, because I used to have difficulty rationalising my reasons for doing it. For most of my life presenting what I write to others has seemed like the height of arrogance and presumption. Now I understand that all writers to some extent fear that they will come across as callow, naive, incoherent, pompous, ignorant, friendless or depressed etc etc etc. Many write against all that. Inevitably it’s partly a question of getting better, at working hard at producing things that are more enjoyable and/or insightful than I did before. Although there may be people out there who would prefer me to shut up, the voice in my own head telling me not to write is louder. Nevertheless I find it pleasurable to write as I do, and doing so helps me and maybe others make sense of life and the world.

I started my first blog when I was in China, and within the smallish world of foreign bloggers in and on China it was gratifyingly successful. I used to enjoy getting comments and starting debates. Over time, as is the pattern with blogs, my interest dwindled. In the meantime I have tried sending things for publication but I’ve come to understand that my style is too particular, personal, and digressive, often based on guesswork, sometimes deliberately obtuse. I had the vague idea of turning the Mexican pieces them into a book, but then got carried away with a novel which I didn’t finish. Which is not to say it won’t come back. I don’t really know the first thing about novel-writing but I do know that the second thing is that it’s messy and it takes a long time.

One insight into writing that’s always stayed with me is Raymond Carver’s remark that he became a short story writer because he had young kids so couldn’t focus enough to write novels. Although when I first came across that I’d never even thought about being a parent, we now, twenty five or so years later, have an actual pram in the hall. Maybe what I’m trying to do here is get myself into a position where I can write short stories. ‘They’ do say you should write about what you know. A friend recently sent me a Bukowski poem that makes much the same point*. Some writers write down everything all the time, and that’s the raw material for their work. I noticed in Guanajuato that that’s what Thomas Pynchon seems to do. In my case I believe that becoming a parent will teach me to write less but better**.

Personal experiences are extremely easy to write about. Writing something like this was an exercise in memory. Hence the difficulty of writing a novel. The fact that I had a topic and a vague plot made it feel a bit like trying to climb a mountain starting from the peak when the mountain didn’t even exist yet. I learnt that instead you have to build the mountain yourself and then climb up it, paying particular attention to minute crevices and potential pitfalls. I don’t think I’m good at that. I tend to miss nuances and subtleties. At the same time, writing can help me improve. It also makes me a better reader. I like what Geoff Dyer said about photography, that it teaches you to pay attention when you’re not taking pictures. Right now, at this time in my life, I need to start paying better attention to details. I also need to get better at inventing and telling stories. Writing is a way of learning to write, and also about learning to live. (I apologise if that previous sentence reminded anyone of Alan de bloody Botton.)

I know I have some bad habits, some tricks I overemploy, like sarcastic asides and wacky digressions. I’m come to accept that they are part of my ‘voice’. (Martin Amis argued that voice and style are the same thing. Don’t bother reading ‘Yellow Dog’.) The nicest thing anyone ever said about my writing is that I have a ‘fascinating voice’. The most demoralising was in a writing class at university, when the tutor called a short story of mine ‘sub-Douglas Adams’. I know that these tropes, quirks and divagations can be irritating and off-putting. Like in John Lanchester’s description of a young but ill-fated superstar footballer in ‘Capital’, people quickly learn your tricks and anticipate them. They lose their effect. I need to work hard on developing a wider range of voices. Extremely skillful writers like Thomas Pynchon have a huge array of styles at their disposal***. Apparently in person Pynchon is a brilliant verbal mimic. That’s another skill I need to develop if I’m going to be the kind of parent I want to be.

One means of becoming a more attentive writer and human being is to immerse myself in poetry, which is language at its most alert and charged. I find poetry to be a constant struggle, but one with immense and intense rewards of concentrated wisdom, not always at a level that can be articulated even in conscious thought. The poems that I’ve read and studied have definitely made me a better writer, even if I still don’t really know how to go about writing one myself. The novelist José Saramago said that he wrote novels because he didn’t know how to write essays; in the same way, I see whatever it is that I post here as the raw material for poems I don’t know how to write.

I believe that if I can write differently it will help me see and act differently, particularly to escape the prison of my own thought and enter more deeply in the lives of my fellow beings. It can help me develop patience, guile and subtlety, to use more refined tools than irony, hyperbole and pathos/bathos****. I’d like to write in a way that’s not zany and glib, but earnest though entertaining. (In the words of Pynchon: ‘Be cool, but care’.) Writing is an extremely powerful tool for transforming all aspects of consciousness and reality. As my former neighbour Iain Sinclair says, there is something magic about the act itself and the effect it produces.

I believe in books. I believe in the wisdom of writers. Although I have friends who believe in the power of the Good Book, I tend to think there are many more than one. I think writing stories encodes a very deep human wisdom far beyond the control or comprehension of any single human being. Without wanting to sound too much like Salman Rushdie, we are made up of an infinite number of stories. Our DNA is a cosmological narrative. (Next week or so I will witness the birth of a whole new universe.) As Proust exemplified, a single second, a momentary sensation contains several books. Writing can be a form of meditation (another way of explaining why you won’t hear from me very much over the next few months).

In any case, what do I do with all the things my life and my privileged education have taught me? How do I share what I’ve experienced, noticed and imagined? Writing for me is about remembering what I’ve learnt while simultaneously learning new things about myself and about the world. It’s a means of remembering and of thinking. Both David Harvey and Geoff Dyer have said that they write books to learn about new subjects. Writing is also a way of paying attention to language, particularly to metaphors, to ways of thinking that we don’t even know are there, and creating new ones. All these questions, of learning, language, memory and identity are about to take on a new depth and a fresh intensity. I hope to have the time to write what some of it is like, but for all that I’ve said here our baby will have more priority than my blog.

*Maybe Bukowski was one of ‘them’!

**It would obviously be pretty dang evil of me to blame an as-yet-unborn child for nipping my writing career in the bud. Notably, it was a man who came up with that thing about the pram in the hall. Speaking of which, whether you have kids or not this is a lovely read. Incidentally, although I’m sure Trump has never heard the Cyril Connolly quote, I’m sure he’d identify with it, and who can help but pity Barron Trump right now? And speaking of Trump’s family, this is priceless.

*** One impulse for writing longer-form things comes from wanting to know how the works of my favourite novelists work, to investigate what a novel really is.

**** …and also footnotes.

 

Tale of Two Donalds: Winnicott on the infant Trump

The renowned pediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott died in 1971, when Donald Trump was 24 years old. This article is an excellent short assessment of his life and achievements. A central element of his thinking is that the analyst should take on the role of the mother and repair parts of the psyche that were damaged in early childhood. He wrote of his own work:

I find it useful to divide the world of people into two classes. There are those who were never ‘let down’ as babies and who are to that extent candidates for the enjoyment of life and of living. There are also those who did suffer traumatic experiences of the kind that result from environmental letdown, and who must carry with them all their lives the memories of the state they were in at moments of disaster. These are candidates for lives of storm and stress and perhaps illness,

In preparation for the birth of our first child I’m currently reading Adam Phillips’ biography of Winnicott. On doing several passages struck me as relevant to understanding the other Donald, the one who is now (nominally at last) one of the most powerful people in the world.

While Winnicott is admired for his gentleness and intelligence, Donald Trump is not. It is certain that the latter has never heard of the former, as he doesn’t read books. It’s possible that he has never read a single one. Neither has he read the Constitution of the country he now (on paper) governs. He doesn’t have the time. He may have never even sat through an entire film: in Mark Singer’s then-funny now-not 1997 New Yorker profile of Trump he writes:

We hadn’t been airborne long when Trump decided to watch a movie. He’d brought along “Michael”, a recent release, but twenty minutes after popping it into the VCR he got bored and switched to an old favorite, a Jean Claude Van Damme slugfest called “Bloodsport,” which he pronounced “an incredible, fantastic movie.” By assigning to his son the task of fast-forwarding through all the plot exposition—Drumpf’s goal being “to get this two-hour movie down to forty-five minutes”—he eliminated any lulls between the nose hammering, kidney tenderizing, and shin whacking.

According to Russell Brand (who has met Trump), the new “President” is “a wanton baby”. Reading about Winnicott makes me think we should take this seemingly glib assessment seriously. There’s been a lot of speculation as to his precise mental condition. His cognitive faculties and emotional temperament appear to be only slightly more sophisticated than those of an adult pig, although there is evidence that pigs do experience some measure of empathy for the suffering of others of their species. I know that when Jon Ronson wrote The Psychopath Test his express intention was to ensure that people should not go throwing the term around with wild abandon, but his book is a very useful primer on the subject, and although some have claimed that Drumpf is nothing more than an absolutely appalling human being, the fact that he was the hero of Patrick Bateman in ‘American Psycho’ tells us a great deal*.

I’m not a psychologist, and obviously have never spent time with Trump. I hope I never will, and I pray that my daughter will never meet him or anyone remotely like him. It’s possible that he should be in a controlled environment where his access to other people is strictly limited. Instead, thanks to the bitterness and puerility of those who voted for him and the cynicism and apathy of those who refused to oppose him**, he will be dealing directly with people who have the authority and means to destroy humanity. His delusions will not be contained but given full expression: after all, as Jacques Lacan said, the madman is not only the beggar who thinks he is King, but also the King who thinks he is King.

His supporters, if there are any that are capable and honest enough to read through an entire 1,000-word article, may feel that a man who punches his own sons in the face and openly talks about being sexually attracted to his own daughter is not a priority for clinical attention. Anyone who has such an attitude clearly has their own issues they need to address. For those who are not yet so immersed in the Trump cult mentality, the following quotes from and about the work of Winnicott with regard to early infant development may give such people a further opportunity for reflection on just what kind of fucked-up creature is now in charge of the most powerful nation on earth.

Trump’s tweets: In a baby’s life there are long periods when he is just a bundle of disparate feelings and impressions and he doesn’t, as an adult would say, mind that this is the case as long as from time to time he comes together and feels something.

Trump the climate denier:

Real development can only come out of, and is the process of finding, belief in the environment.

Psychotic patients are notoriously and maddeningly oblivious of bombs, earthquakes and floods.

Trump the sociopath: He wants to know how much damage he can do, and how much he can do with impunity. Then if he finds that he can be physically managed, he starts to test by subtlety, putting one person against another, trying to make people give each other away, and doing all he can to get favoured himself.

Trump the sadistic baby turned authoritarian adult: Fascism is a permanent alternative to puberty.

And my personal favourite: Fascism, delinquency, rage, misogyny, alcoholism are only the symptoms of poor childhoods that the collective will have to pay for. The road to a better society begins in the nursery.

There you have it: Trump is stuck at some point in his infant development. He is by no means a mature adult, and he certainly should not be anywhere near political power. And if you’re still unconvinced by what I and Donald Winnicott have to say on the matter, don’t take our word for it: have a listen to Trevor Noah.

* – in the words of the New Yorker, Drumpf “exhibits levels of egotism rarely witnessed out of a clinical environment”; meanwhile the ghost-writer of one of “his” “books”(‘The Art of the Deal’) says openly that if he were to write it now he would simply call it ‘The Psychopath’.

** I really hope that the sorrow that such people feel today is commensurate with the extent of their betrayal.

UPDATE: It’s not only Trump that doesn’t know how to read, his supporters don’t either. I posted this article in a pro-Trump Facebook group and within ten minutes it looked like this:

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