When the news of pharma bro Martin Shkreli jacking up the price of AIDS medicine Daraprim from US$13.5 to US$750 per pill went viral, I felt compelled to give him the benefit of the doubt. I posited he was trying to tell us something, rile us up, make us realize the fundamental wrongness of a system where money is king and force us to face the parasitic and inhumane nature of greed-based capitalism. We didn’t listen. We couldn’t, wouldn’t see beyond the facade of the jerk he embodied so giddily. We hated him. Not the system that allowed him to and awarded him for being so. We hated the player. Not the game.
What he did was perfectly legal and that should have given us pause. Instead we hated him because it was easier. It meant we didn’t have to face the truth, most likely because we like whatever benefits we can get from an unjust system enough that we don’t want to question it. So we rather yell at something. Someone. Anything. A pharmakos we can sacrifice to our righteousness so we don’t have to acknowledge the part we play in letting the capitalists get away with murder. Which they will continue to do as the securities fraud case against Shkreli and his lawyer – accused of defrauding the very same pharmaceutical company used to make the point about medicine prices – moves to trial. If history serves us right, he’ll be in for a few years and get to keep all his money.
In less than 10 days, Donald J. Trump has managed to offend pretty much everyone on the planet, with executive orders on both domestic and international issues, to right what he felt as wrong, namely human decency. The list of signed orders, as maintained by Wikipedia, is quite the informative sight.
On his first day of work, for his first order of business, the US President went in for his predecessor’s signature policy, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – putting in jeopardy the health of over 30 million newly-assured Americans. Four days later, on January 24th, he would sign Executive Order 13766, »[e]xpediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals for High Priority Infrastructure Projects », because who cares about making sure that our impact on the environment won’t endanger our very own existence. This gave way to a presidential memorandum on the revival of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a stark reminder to the Native Americans that this land is the White Male (TM)‘s and not theirs. Also, not welcome in Trump’s America, Muslims from countries where he has no business interests.
The so-called Muslim ban has elicited protests at US Airports and condemnations from tech giants Google and Facebook and world leaders alike. Iran, one of the countries cited in the Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States act has decided to reciprocate and ban Americans from entering the country. Germany, forever burdened by its Nazi past, has called upon the US President to not go the way of isolation, building walls, cutting ties. France is calling on Europe to stand strong and united. China is gearing up for a power grab. Russia is giddy with excitement. The world, as a whole, is unsure about what a Trump presidency means and is looking for answers. The women marched. The scientists are planning to march. Soon we will all be marching. But to where?
Donald Trump, just like Martin Shkreli’s Daraprim, is a symptom of a larger problem. And whoever – Steve Bannon? – managed to make his presidency become a reality is doing us all a favor. Whether they intended it or not, is beside the point. The presidency of the Donald might very well be the best thing that has happened to our species in a long time. He, embodies, all by his self, the very essence of the destructive hegemony of the capital over our lives. He is a rich old white male misogynist politician with racist tendencies, an abyssal grasp of science and delusions of grandeur. He is all that we can feel free to hate, with all our might. A convenient scapegoat we can rally against and decry, day and night. We must, however, go beyond that.
Donald Trump as POTUS means questioning the unwarranted trust the United States has benefited from in world affairs. The « Muslim Ban » is terrible but we need to notice that the same countries have been or are currently being bombed by the US aiding along countless civilian deaths and widespread destruction. The Donald is doing a great job at pulling away the curtain of the « Benevolent Empire » myth to remind us all, Americans and non-Americans, of the incredible might of a US President and the danger that lies beneath. In this sense, he is an invaluable asset in reminding us that « absolute power corrupts absolutely ».
As he moves to put « America first », let’s get together to hasten its decline and work toward a more inclusive, a more equal world where no one powerful group can alone dictate the direction humanity should go, especially when said direction is more deregulation, more billionaires and less respect for human dignity.