Trump trumps politicians

There was a violent clash between pro- and anti-Trump supporters after his campaign speech in San Diego. His rigid, inflammatory views on immigration was at the heart of the clash. But it is not only on immigration that Donald Trump has the ability to polarize the diversity of opinion, that is of concern.

According to Dolan, a law professor at the South Pacific School of Law, ‘Trump is a dangerous, unprincipled vulgarian‘. He urges Republicans to have courage and step up and defeat Trump. But this seems impossible now, since the process has gone too far. Trump has done the seemingly impossible and won the Republican nomination for the USA presidency.

But how was this possible, given all the criticism and outrage from the establishment that he has received during his campaign?

Trump is a political outsider, and he has not engaged his opponents according to the ‘political rules’. This has been his most effective strength. Being an outsider, he is not answerable to established patterns and rules. He has been politically incorrect in every way.

His fundamental strategy has been one of belittling, demeaning and degrading his opposition in public. In a sporting context, he has fought dirty. No political opponent has been able to defeat him at his own game. Anyone who has tried to play him at his own game, has lost. Trump is not sensitive to the opinions of others, so outrage and criticism from others that may threaten him, will be the very process that he feeds off, fueling his intense desire and determination to gain control. Trump loves to fight, and he knows how to fight. This fight intensifies when his egotistical survival is threatened. For him, the best form of defence is attack.

By nature, there is always a strategy and power-play to every politician’s statement. In general, politicians say what they think you want to hear. While debating, Trump has highlighted the hypocrisy and deviousness of himself, as well as, of all other politicians. He has exposed and highlighted the ‘darker side’ of the political world.

His ‘rules of engagement’ in any interpersonal encounter (personal, business and political) indicate that he cannot be trusted. He has an egotistical perspective about any situation that he encounters, which he interprets and changes in a manipulative way to benefit his need for power and control. Africa is full of such leaders (Mugabe, is a case in point), and when in power, their every action activates a process of destruction.

So given all of this, why does he have such a following?

On stage, in public, he has voiced in a simplistic, yet emotive way what many of the electorate at grassroots level are thinking and/or experiencing. His rather crude and emotive language helps him join and connect with those who have felt ‘unheard’. It is obvious that there is a great divide between those in political power who purport to serve the people, and the people. The electorate are angry at the politicians and therefore take vicarious delight at how he brutally attacks them on a personal level.

Trump brings to the surface, simmering issues, such as immigration and terrorism. These issues threaten the basic safety needs of people and in a rather bizarre way, he is seen to be the solution to complex global issues. His strong-arm tactics seem to make them feel safe, much like a bouncer at a night club that ensures everyone behaves.

Of particular concern, the USA presidential campaign has cast serious doubts on all of its leadership. As an alternative to Trump, Hilary Clinton offers little confidence. She is also riddled with controversy. So at a critical time in our global evolution, the USA does not seem to have a leader with the necessary qualities of integrity and wisdom to deal with the complexity of global issues that are emerging. It is a sorry state of affairs.

With regard to the immigration issue, many ordinary people are feeling unsafe and fearful. This results in societies building up barriers in order to protect what they have, in the fear that others from the outside may take what they have got. This is not just the case in America. In a small Swiss village, many miles from the US, the inhabitants (many of which are millionaires), have voted to reject 10 asylum seekers into their community and instead pay a £200 000 fine to the government. But paying off a problem, only suspends the problem. The fundamental reason given by a resident was that ‘we have worked hard all our lives and have a lovely village that we do not want spoiled…we are not suited to take in refugees…they would not fit in here’.

Alone on the Zug lake, Switzerland
Alone on the Zug lake, Switzerland

Dealing with any global issue requires integrative and holistic thinking. The political challenge is to find collaborative ways for all concerned to participate in finding solutions to complex problems that are being encountered. This is a creative process, not a power or financial process. The USA presidential campaign has clearly highlighted the ineffectiveness of politicians in this regard.

Decay of a system

In the ruthless world of business, a stock price can drop significantly over time due to poor performance and lack of profitability of a company. As the decay continues, the share is eventually suspended due to severe financial loss and bankruptcy.

If Cricket South Africa was a business, operating in the market place where normal economic forces are at play, the share would have been suspended months ago.

While most of the media attention has focused on the poor performance of the senior team over the past year since their semi-final loss against New Zealand in the World Cup, of greater concern is what has been unfolding in the Under-19 team over the past two years, since being crowned World Champions in 2014. At the end of that tournament, Cricket South Africa saw it fit to replace the experienced coach Ray Jennings (who had been in charge of managing successful Under-19 national teams over ten years). The reasons for not renewing his contract were not revealed. Since his departure, it is worth just looking at the results of the younger generation of South African cricketers, bearing in mind that they are the feeder system into the senior team. These results have gone unnoticed by most. Building up to the recent World Cup championships, the bare facts reveal that the team had played 19 Youth ODIs and had lost 16 of these (15,7% success). Then the team did not make the quarter-finals, losing to Namibia, and finally to round off the lows, the team was bowled out for 91 by Zimbabwe, losing by 8 wickets in the Plate matches.

While the reasons for the poor performance of the national and Under-19 South African teams may be many, there are two predominant factors that I feel are at play: (a) the quality of the leadership and, (b) the criteria regarding selection policy and political interference in natural competitive sporting processes.

Cricket South Africa should be extremely concerned at the decay that is unfolding in their cricket system. It is obvious that there are internal processes that are causing the system to implode. But is it too late to rescue the situation, or is there the will or intention to address the unhealthy processes that exist in the system?. The sad state of affairs is that the quality of performance of the senior and junior national teams has dropped significantly, to a level where the teams are now losing to their impoverished African neighbours.

In my practice, I consult with many young athletes who have aspirations to turn professional in their respective sports. I have witnessed a dramatic reduction in those wanting to pursue cricket. On a fundamental level, there has been a shift away from team sports (such as cricket), to the more individualistic sports where the possibility of administrative interference is reduced.

A lone oarsman
A lone oarsman

Cannot separate sport, politics and national psyche

The fragile expanse
The fragile expanse

The early morning sunrise in the Kruger National Park reflects the beautiful, yet fragile natural expanse of our environment. Fragile, since there is always the threat that man may intervene and disrupt the natural inter-connective harmony that underpins all of the relationships that exist in the healthy, balanced ecosystem.

World cup sporting competitions are the center stage where a country can reveal its team on the field of play. It also reveals the national psyche of the country and the degree of political interference that exists in the sporting system. Just recently, there has been the controversy of the drug scandal in Russia where most of the athletes are accused of using performance enhancing drugs in an organised way with the knowledge and support of the Russian authorities.

On a national level, a sporting team will reflect the nature of the society that it is embedded in. The nature and quality of the performance of a national sporting team can be used as a barometer of the overall emotional and energetic state of the country that it is representing.

Over the past year, the performances of the South African cricket and rugby teams are of concern since they are reflecting a disintegration of standards and values that is busy unfolding in South Africa. The soccer team has been functioning below potential in an unorganised way for a number of years now and the cricket and rugby teams are following suit.

Our cricket team’s semi-final loss in the World Cup in March and their poor performance against Bangladesh (a team that has recently gained test match status) in July and now in India as they capitulate in the test series reflects that the quality of performance is on a slippery slope downwards.

The South African rugby team also showed worrying signs that all was not well when they lost every match in the rugby championship (to New Zealand, Australia and Argentina) and then to Japan in the first match in the world cup tournament. This came as a major shock to the rugby world, since the Japanese had previously only won one world cup match against Zimbabwe in 1991 in all of their previous world cup encounters. On an energetic level, the South African rugby team were lethargic during the match. There was little or no urgency and commitment. Despite the wealth of experience in the team, there seemed to be no leadership coming from the players on the field. The team did not appear to have a co-ordinated, integrated game plan. In contrast, the Japanese showed a resilience and confidence that comes from a highly focused team that had a unified vision.

There were obviously macro, as well as micro factors that may have played there part in causing the South African team to perform so poorly against Japan. On a micro level, was everyone on board and committed to the game plan? Given how the team played, serious questions needed to be asked about the leadership, both on and off the field. The team did not seem to have a clear strategy on the field. They did not appear to have a ’cause’ worth dying for. There seemed to be no ‘buy in’ to the game plan, if there was one. If anything, the team seemed depressed. Given the very low energetic state of the team, what may have sucked the energy out of the team?

On a macro level, there was so much controversy about the selection of the rugby team, with a small political party wanting a court order to be issued to bar the team from going to the world cup.

After the loss against Japan, the rugby coach Heyneke Meyer apologised to the nation, much in the same way as the cricket captain did after the team lost to New Zealand in the semi-final. These apologies reflect the huge amount of responsibility that these two leaders felt in wanting to ‘bring back the cup’ to the nation. From a psychological perspective, the cup is seen as something concrete to unify a nation that is in desperate need of a unified vision. Winning the cup could reveal that the team had triumphed against all the opposition and that we as South Africans, were the best in the world (despite the odds being stacked against us), which highlights a sense of entitlement.

Sport should unite, and bring hope to a nation. Sport offers a context where all young athletes can aspire to higher and higher levels of success. Team sports reflect dynamics such as cohesion, commitment, discipline and integrative energy. But these healthy dynamics will not emerge if there is constant political interference in the team processes, where a nation’s distorted psyche is projected onto its team and/or where a country is wrapped up in societal and political dynamics that have no unified vision due to poor and/or corrupt leadership.

In South Africa, sport is wrapped up in the political psyche of a country that has had historical trauma, and which continues to be divisive in its perspective of a vision going forward. The performance of the three sporting codes of soccer, rugby and cricket highlight the political and societal dynamics and issues that we are busy struggling with in the country.