Growing up in a political family, Tessa joined her first political party at 14. Her interest in progressive politics & economics continues.
There was a time when a certain standard of behaviour was the norm in first world countries. Those standards included that one was always polite, that one did not cheat, and if one did, one stepped down from one’s position without being asked. In addition, one never raised one’s voice, never insulted others, and if one did, it was done in such a way as to leave one in doubt as to whether one was insulted or not.
The more senior the position, the more strict these rules became. Under no circumstances whatsoever would certain behaviour be tolerated in any sort of leadership position. It was considered crass to talk about money and vulgar to boast about one’s achievements. Those who did indulge in that kind of behaviour were considered to be without class and were called ‘common.’
The Ugly American
In 1958 Eugene Burdick and William Lederer published a book entitled The Ugly American. The book spoke about the inability of the United States Diplomatic Corps to be tactful, of their insensitivity to local customs, and the refusal of American representatives to fit in with the mores and values of countries in which they were guests.
The book was a bestseller with John Kennedy singling it out and sending a copy to each of his ambassadors. The book has been in continual print and is said to be one of the most influential political books ever written.
Donald Trump seems to have missed it.
American movies often depict a man taking a gun and shooting someone else in cold blood. This could just as well be the antagonist as the protagonist. Movies further have a constant theme of Americans saving the world and other countries not being competent to look after themselves.
Authors like Tom Clancy, Lee Child, and Vince Flynn consistently have their ‘heroes’ in their books solve problems with guns. There is no talk. Just a bullet. In all the novels, torture is accepted as a way of resolving issues, and any method that utilizes diplomatic skill is held in contempt and seen as weak.
This macho behaviour of males comprises about half the men in the United States. In other cultures, this would be seen as poor in mind, lacking in refinement, and boorish. Interestingly, the only other nations where this kind of behaviour is acceptable is in Africa. Braggadocio is a way of life for certain African leaders. So it’s of international concern that an American who harbours traits that are socially unacceptable, and who demonstrates vulgar and crass behaviour should be the front runner for the GOP (Grand Old Party).
Differences in behaviour between the classes
Donald Trump is the victim of a particular culture
In order for Trump to become the man he is, he had to have constant approval and acceptance of his behaviour throughout his life. He sees no wrong in the way he behaves, and neither do a great number of Americans. This is because, at its guts, self-aggrandisement, aggression, and the need for more and more, lies at the root of much American culture.
It is no accident that liberal and progressive America reject these traits and Republicans don’t notice them. When one has grown up, surrounded by certain behaviour, it seems natural.
Yet to those who stand outside this culture, it is both abrasive and objectionable.
To quote the New Zealand Herald “Trump personifies everything the rest of the world despises about America: casual racism, crass materialism, relentless self-aggrandisement, vulgarity on an epic scale. He is the Ugly American in excelsis.”
Anti-intellectualism, religiosity, ignorance? Or just a matter of class?
Isaac Asimov famously said that there was a culture of anti-intellectualism in America. There was always something about the statement that bothered me, and I finally understood what it was. In order to be against something, one has to know what one is against. I don’t believe that the people who are said to be anti-intellectual have any understanding what intellectualism is. I think there is a simpler explanation for what ails so many in America.
Do you remember Lisa Doolittle from My Fair Lady? There’s a scene where she screams at other people and behaves in a way that epitomises her class. Henry Higgens takes on the task of bringing her up to class.
I think the roots of the crass behaviour and general ignorance in America goes back to the kind of people who originally arrived – peasants. Certainly, they prospered, but class is about behaviour, not about money.
The Upper Classes
While something can be said about the abuse of power, snobbishness, and the arrogance of the upper classes in Europe, learning how to behave and handle all manner of events starts early. There is a rigid discipline that never lets up. Private (or public schools as they are known in England) install ways of saying things and handling things. So a gentleman would not tell you that you are rude. Rather he might mention that some are less than polite. It is never direct.
Shoes need to be shined, trousers need to be ironed, punctuality is ingrained, bread and butter letters (thank you letters for hospitality received) are insisted upon, the voice should never be raised and epithets should never be used. Words are pronounced in a certain manner, and a code of honour is part of the culture. This is why it is expected that if a leader is caught in something scandalous, he steps down without being asked. Education is also rigorous with analysis and critical thinking being part of the syllabus. In addition, children are exposed early to other cultures as a result of traveling with their parents to other countries during vacation times. Second, third, and forth languages are the norm. That is all part of the ethos of class. And the training begins very young.
Class - a matter of behaviour
What Asimov and others saw as a culture of anti-intellectualism is to my mind simply an absence of the type of knowledge generally held by the upper classes. As Robert Kiyosaki said so eloquently in his book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, the children of the wealthy are taught to think about things differently. So while many Americans became very prosperous, they did not necessarily learn the skills and adopt the behaviour that is consistent with leadership.
The same kind of behaviourial difference is seen with very poor lottery winners. Because they were never accustomed to having money, they never learn to use it, and soon the money is all lost because it was never invested wisely.
At a fundamental level, this difference in behaviour affects the way situations are handled. Diplomacy is an art both handed down and acquired, and it is necessary for anyone in politics. The Christian Science Monitor noted in a May 1984 article that while America's response to an incident was military invasion, Britain's was behind-the-scene's negotiation.
Years ago, Peter York wrote a book called The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook. I recall an observation he made that has stuck with me all these years. He said that while there was a particular etiquette amongst these young wealthy people, that etiquette only worked amongst them. It did not work for people who had not been taught their particular way of life. So, for instance, a simple raised eyebrow or a soft word would immediately inform someone that they were out of line, and in line with that culture, people would simply adjust. Everything was done quietly and discreetly.
Traditionally in politics, and all positions of leadership, things are done quietly and discreetly. Mr Trump does not seem to understand the necessity of this.
President of a third world country
Jacob Zuma is the president of South Africa. He left school in his 8th year and is not fit to lead a country. When in court for raping a thirty one year old woman who was HIV positive, he was asked if he used a condom in order to avoid the infection, he famously said, “No, I washed.”
Mr. Zuma doesn’t know any better. Nor does Donald Trump.
Supporters of Mr. Trump
Anyone with the least modicum of etiquette would reject Trump’s behaviour. Those who support him then, can be said to operate at the same level (or a lesser level) than Mr. Trump. They have no idea how to behave, what is acceptable, what works, what doesn’t, and their views are formed by insufficient information. And just as Jacob Zuma was too ignorant to understand that mere washing wasn’t sufficient to protect him against the HIV virus, so Mr Trump and his supporters have no idea of the ludicrousy of their views and behaviour.
That said, just as Lisa Doolittle's behaviour didn't matter in the market place where she was selling flowers, but did matter when it came to mixing with the aristocracy, so Donald Trump's behaviour does not matter in his business but is not suitable for that of a president and the leader of the world's most powerful military nation. His general level of ignorance, his lack of etiquette, his threats to some and abuse of others are not traits that are acceptable on the world stage. That a large section of Americans find them not only acceptable but admirable are symptoms of a sick nation.
© 2015 Tessa Schlesinger
Tessa Schlesinger (author) on May 10, 2016:
Roob, didn't bother to read anything you wrote. Your post was just deleted once I read the first line. I really don't need your insults, and I'm not interested in people who aren't progressives. My profile says this clearly. Goodbye.
Credence2 from Florida (Space Coast) on May 07, 2016:
Tess, you are spot on having a better understanding of the 'Trump Phenomenon' than Americans themselves. The GOP is deevolving into reaction, open to authoritarian forces.
You don't need to live here to have an accurate picture, thanks for reinforcing the view that I have always had, from folks from the outside of the fray....
Tessa Schlesinger (author) on March 22, 2016:
Roob, I came back to South Africa 6 months ago. I spent 13 years in America. I am highly educated and have lived and worked on three continents in six countries. I have between 26,000 and 29,000 followers on my various streams on Google Plus with approximately 800,000 to 1 million views per month. Here's the interesting thing. They're all highly educated and they are NOT standing in line waiting for handouts. They are, however, Bernie supporters. So I think you need to go rethink your information.
It says something about you that you support Donald Trump.
Ruby from United States on March 22, 2016:
Hillary the biggest liar running? Or Sanders who will give everything away for free unless you actually work lol? You ever wonder why the democrats attract the poor people such as black & mexicans from the ghetto, all the people on welfare, asians who want their family in asia to come get free school? Hmm maybe because they give everything away for free. How about we build a wall like everybody has around their house. Tax people fairly. If you are healthy and don't work... then you get nothing!(: Is that really unfair? Also block the muslims from coming or coming back, whos religion is responsible for terrorist attacks at home & wars in the middle east. If that is unfair, then me giving all my stuff away and letting someone kill me must be fair then? lol. Do you even live in America, or South Africa? Its different when your not here.
Tessa Schlesinger (author) on January 07, 2016:
pagesvoice. When I first came to hubpages (in another life) I faced lot of those people. I was devastated and left. Then I learnt through social networking that it was a particular section of American society.
Dennis L. Page from New York/Pennsylvania border on January 06, 2016:
I thoroughly enjoyed your article. Quite frankly, as an American I am ashamed by the way a section of people act and react in this country. Some citizens exhibit a deep-seeded anger and meanness I can't comprehend. I was hoping we would be more progressive with our views, rather than the regressive and fear mongering approach we appear to be taking. Thank you for this excellent post.
Tessa Schlesinger (author) on December 12, 2015:
Barbsbitsnpieces, I hope so. Certainly the rest of the world will be horrified if he becomes president. Scotland has just removed him from being their business ambassador and one of the Scottish universities are stripping him of his honoury doctorate.
This is also an interesting piece.
Barbara Anne Helberg from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA on December 12, 2015:
@Tess... Strong words, indeed, and many are true, to a point. Trump and other wealthy individuals have helped castrate America's middle class structure, which has been the true wealth of our nation nearly since its independence day.
If Trump wins the Presidency, I'll be shocked. He probably does speak for those with "pent up" emotions concerning many government policies and shortcomings, but when it comes to voting someone into the most powerful position in the world, theoretically speaking, US voters won't choose Trump. He's way too far away from our original values and quest for freedoms; someone no one wants to have a finger on the nuclear button.
Tessa Schlesinger (author) on December 09, 2015:
Hxprof, Ameericans are psychologically sick, not spiritually sick. (With the exception of America, all other first world countries, are essentially secular.) Half of Americans either have a life long mental illness or have one or more episodes during their lifetimes. This is the outcome of excessive stress, excessive consumption of things like pharmaceutical or recreational drugs, and a belief system that conflicts with reality.
I fully understand that those who support Trump think he doesn't dance around the issues. The point is not that Trump is dancing around the issues. The point is that he misunderstands the issues and has a twisted resolution for what he thinks the issues are. And the people who support him are of the same ilk. I'm not at all sure that they will abandon him. The GOP doesn't seem to have any sane leaders.
"As far as the wealth issue that you touch on in comments above - while it's true that a few Americans hold a chunk of the wealth in America, many Americans, myself included, don't necessarily see a problem in that. "
Um, yes, that's because many Americans think that, one day, they're going to be wealthy, too. That is absolute hog, and it's that driving hope that keeps a flawed system working. There is no issue with some people having more than others, but when HALF of Americans are living either on the poverty line or below the poverty line, there is most certainly an enormous problem inequality...
Hxprof on December 09, 2015:
Good article. You suggest that a country in which so many support a seriously flawed individual is likely sick, and I agree. America is spiritually sick. I suggest also, though, that a fair number of those who currently support Trump aren't true supporters, rather, they see Trump as someone who doesn't dance around the issues and will actually take a solid stand on issues, unlike most politicians. These "supporters" will abandon Trump as the primary season progresses.
As far as the wealth issue that you touch on in comments above - while it's true that a few Americans hold a chunk of the wealth in America, many Americans, myself included, don't necessarily see a problem in that. However, there is the problem that many of the wealthiest have bought our politicians, and that problem isn't going away. In fact, the wealthy own most politicians in the western world.....this bodes ill for all nations.
Tessa Schlesinger (author) on December 09, 2015:
Letstalkaboutduc, unfortunately the voice is addressing the wrong issues in the wrong way. Four hundred people in America own 62% of American wealth and Trump is one of them. He points the finger and minority groups who aren't the issue. It's people like him who suck the blood out of the economy who are the issue.
McKenna Meyers on December 09, 2015:
Yes, it's difficult enough for us in America to understand the Trump phenomenon, let alone those in other countries. I do think Trump's success reflects how far removed our government has become from the people it's supposed to represent. As a citizen who recently became politically involved in education issues, I've been shocked and disheartened that politicians don't reply to my letters (national, state, and local figures). You realize you really don't have a voice unless you have big bucks. Government is bought and sold. Donald Trump has given a voice to many people who've been silenced by political correctness. It's an ugly voice, but it wanted to be heard.
Suzie from Carson City on December 08, 2015:
Tessa....Absolutely fabulous work! I thoroughly enjoyed every word.
It's fairly clear whether "sick" or not, these symptoms are certainly those of an "angry" nation. At least this is the view I am receiving. It seems apparent to me the Trump lovers are reveling in the fact that he is spitting out all the vile, nasty things they've had pent up for so long. Only this very wealthy, ego-maniac who has no regard for what anyone else thinks or believes, can just easily & publicly blurt out .....well, what he's been blurting out.
These fans just salivate as he exposes the 800 pound gorilla in the room that they've been dying to beat on
When the relief and release is over, I try to believe that reason, common sense & a love of our country will rise above this passing fancy for Donald.
What I wish for people to fully understand is, if they succeed in making Trump THE Republican candidate for POTUS...and IF they also DESPISE Hilary....they have just solidified her victory in 2016.
People do crazy things, Tessa. This election is so profoundly important. I am very concerned.
Again, great hub. Thank you. Peace, Paula