Opinions of Peter Belmont
Speaking Truth to Power

Mr. Trump’s Chauffeur—A Cautionary Tale

by Peter A. Belmont / 2016-11-27
© 2016 Peter Belmont


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Mr. Trump will soon be President Trump. He will make decisions and he will take advice. He has already announced that he will entirely slash NASA’s climate science projects in favor of deep space exploration, a decision which has been called a ’Shockingly Stupid’ Attack on Science

Where might this very interesting decision have come from? Does Mr. Trump have a bag over his head? Does he want one? Perhaps we can learn more about it by considering the tale of:

Mr. Trump’s Chauffeur

One day, Mr. Trump took a drive in his very long chauffeur-driven stretch limousine. He drove from New York to Boston.

With him in his very long stretch limousine, Mr. Trump took all of his family, some friends and their families, and a few of his closest advisers. And, of course, he took his chauffeur. whom everyone called Sam (or Uncle Sam). After all, someone had to drive!

Baby Jimmy’s Advice

Once the drive had started, a very surprising topic of conversation began. It began with Baby Jimmy, who was only three.

Baby Jimmy said, “Wouldn’t it be fun if Uncle Sam put a paper bag over his head,” and then Baby Jimmy broke into a gale of laughter. Oh, those little kids, they get such funny ideas! Baby Jimmy loved to say whatever popped into his head! It was such fun, almost as good as being tickled!

Well, it was just Baby Jimmy, and after all he didn’t know very much about driving (or much else), and everybody laughed. Baby Jimmy is so cute!

But it seemed that Baby Jimmy’s idea had “legs”. As they say.

Susie’s Expert Advice

Pretty soon, Susie took up the idea. “Yes,” she said, “clearly, it should be a brown paper bag! No other color makes sense.” Susie’s idea made sense to her, because she had a very good understanding of colors and design, even if she may have been a bit “light” on the subject of driving. After all, people who have never driven but only been driven by chauffeurs cannot be expected to have a very close grasp on the realities of driving, can they? And Susie always reacted to suggestions which raised questions of colors or design by considering the matter strictly from the angle of color and design, without regard to any other aspect of the matter! Compartmentalization is such a wonderful thing, isn’t it?

And, as I’ve said, Susie was an expert! In fact, she was quite an expert on colors and design and, when she talked, she expected people to listen. Usually they did listen. Often, she got her way, because she was a very persuasive speaker, to say nothing of being an ‘expert’! If she said, “brown”, then a brown bag over Sam’s head it would have to be!

Edwina’s Suicidal Advice

In one of the back seats was Mr. Trump’s friend’s sister, Edwina, who was, for reasons outside the purview of this story, rather morose, even suicidal. And she picked up on Susie’s demand. “Yes,” Edwina said, “Sam should wear a brown bag over his head!” She thought that if Sam wore a brown bag (or any bag) over his head, he would be sure to crash the limousine, and Edwina would die, as she wished. Life was such a misery to Edwina, and she gave no thought to the lives of the others in the limousine—or outside it!

Advisor Steve’s Efficiency Advice

Next heard from was Mr. Trump’s close advisor Steve. Steve was an ‘expert’ on efficiency, indeed, he was an ideologue on efficiency. He thought, and he laid it down dogmatically, that everything was better if done efficiently.

He said, “Mr. Trump, you know that a straight line is the shortest and most efficient path between any two points, and Sam has been turning the steering wheel a great deal so far during this drive. It would be much more efficient if he stopped turning the steering wheel so we could travel in a straight line! If Sam had a paper bag over his head (of any color so long as it were opaque) he would perforce drive in a straight line because he couldn’t be distracted by seeing the road ahead, the other cars, etc. Our drive would then be so very much more efficient and hence more perfect!”

And Mr. Trump usually listened to and followed Steve’s advice, even if, or perhaps precisely because, that advice was uttered with such a tone of conviction and assurance, the very sort of tone mastered by ideologues, dogmatists, snake oil salesmen, and true believers of every sort, and the like.

As it happened, Mr. Trump had had little contact with men of this sort until his run for the Presidency threw him in with professional politicians and their hangers-on.

Charlie’s Mad Agreement

While Mr. Trump was considering Steves efficiency proposal, Charlie chimed in. Charlie said, “Oh, everybody, my voices have been incessant ever since we began this drive, and my voices have been telling me that Uncle Sam should wear a black bag over his head. I always listen to my voices—indeed, I can do no other—and I always try to do what they tell me because it’s the only way I can get them to shut up!”

Everyone was very sympathetic with Charlie, who was mad as a hatter, but they were not persuaded that the bag should be black. Who would take the advice of someone as insane as Charlie?

Minna Was Car Sick

Meanwhile, Minna found that she was car sick, And she attributed her car sickness to all the turning left and right and all the slowing down and speeding up which the limousine seemed to be doing—indeed, seemed to her to be doing just to increase her car sickness.

Minna was, truth to tell, not very knowledgeable about driving cars. Usually she stayed home. She didn’t know what all that turning and speed changing was about. But she did know or believe one thing, and she knew it well: it was making her sick.

So, based on her very sure knowledge—or belief—she desperately wanted Sam to stop the gyrations of the limousine. After all, it was a four hour trip from New York to Boston and she felt sick.

So she joined the chorus calling for a bag, a bag of any color, to be put over Sam’s head so that he would stop reacting to driving conditions and just drive smoothly.

Minna didn’t want to cause a crash, of course, but she was just reacting to her own experience and her own understanding of the world. And car sickness is no laughing matter.

What Did Uncle Sam Think Of All This?

After all this discussion and enthusiastic advice, Mr. Trump asked Uncle Sam what he thought of it all.

Uncle Sam allowed as how the whole discussion was certainly very interesting, and far be it from him to make light of anything anyone had said. The thing was, he said, that he (himself) seemed to know a lot about driving, what with being a professional chauffeur and all, and the speakers, so far, had evinced little understanding of the realities of driving a car (much less a very long stretch limousine).

And another thing! What he’d been hearing was advice, in effect advice to Mr. Trump. And although he was no expert himself on advice-giving, Uncle Sam’d heard enough to give some preliminary advice to Mr. Trump on the very important subject of seeking and taking advice!

Take advice from people who know a lot about the subject under discussion, and avoid advice from people whose advice is slanted due to ideology, selfishness, mental defect, single-mindedness, and the like. After all, Mr. Trump, you will, as President, have to seek and take a lot of advice and you are surrounded by people who may—for all anyone knows—have “an agenda”, that is, who may offer advice for a narrow purpose (selfish or ideological) rather than for the public good.

Take driving for an instance; yes, consider advice on driving.

The thing is, he said, that driving is required to be safe, and to be safe the driver must see all of what is in the environment of the car being driven. A driver should see all that is there to be seen. He should see the ‘behavior’ of other cars, turns in the road, road conditions such as snow, ice, rain, gravel, pot-holes. Traffic signs and road signs. And he couldn’t see at all with a bag over his head.

Uncle Sam allowed as how, although he had learned a bit about driving when as a teen-ager he’d had driving lessons, he’d learned a whole lot more by actual driving. In driving school, he’d driven only in summer-time and never on highways. He’d learned to drive on highways by doing it, and by paying attention while doing it—you betcha! And he’d learned to drive in rain, snow, and over ice by long and sometimes difficult experience.

All those kindly and well-intentioned folks who’d been suggesting driving with a bag over his head had been motivated by common—if diverse—human emotions and human ideas, but none of them had been motivated, or even informed, by a knowledge-driven idea of the practicalities of driving.

Baby Jimmy’s idea was offered because it was fun, not because it was sensible. Beware people offering advice merely because the idea is ‘fun’.

Susie’s ideas on color and design were offered without regard for any aspect of the decision (should there be a bag at all?) other than her very narrow perspective, color and design. Beware experts offering advice on a whole issue when their attention and expertise was concentrated only on a part of the problem.

Edwina’s suicidal advice was essentially selfish. Her advice was good advice from her own selfish perspective (it would get her suicide accomplished) but it ignored the good of all others. Beware the advice of the essentially selfish advisor.

Steve’s ‘efficiency’ advice was the advice of an ideologue. There are many kinds of ideologues: political, religious, social, economic, but they all share one unfortunate quality—the ideology is fixed and unchanging and has no necessary connection to any sort of reality. Beware the advice of people who advise what, irrespective of real-world conditions, they believe rather than what they believe after they (or someone trustworthy whose views they have consulted) has gained relevant real-world experience.

Charlie’s advice was essentially selfish—he wanted to quiet his ‘voices’. But his advice was also insane. Beware taking advice from the insane.

Minna’s advice was, in its way, ‘expert’, but her expertise was too narrow and her advice was too selfish. She wanted to solve her own car sickness problem at the risk of death to all the others in the stretch limousine. Beware taking advice from people who understand only a narrow (here a very, very narrow) aspect of a larger problem.

In summary, Sam said, it is a good idea when faced with a problem in a particular realm, to get advice from people who have real experience and real knowledge about that problem.

If the problem is one which doesn’t ‘hold still’, if it is a constantly changing problem, it is best to make sure that people who know how to learn about it continue to study it.

You, Mr. Trump, he went on, are yourself quite experienced in some fairly narrow specialties. You know a lot about real estate transactions and about building large buildings. You know a lot of tax law and bankruptcy law. You know how to manipulate government in your own interest.

But you know nothing much about the climate change problem that many people call “global warming”. So you should get advice on that from the people who do know about it, such as the scientists who study climate at NASA. Since the climate change problem is a constantly changing problem, you not only need advice, but you need to make sure that knowledge about climate change continues to be developed. This can only happen if scientists continue to study it.

So, Mr. Trump, in the same way that you should not take the advice of any of the folks who suggested putting a bag over my head, also do not take the advice of anyone who (in effect) suggests that you put a bag over your own head.

Governing the USA is not going to be easy and you’ll necessarily need a lot of advice. The most important advice you’ll need initially is advice about what problems require you to get advice and about whom to get as such advisers. Your very narrow life experience (business, real estate, law, politicking in your own narrow interest) qualifies you—at best—to keep doing what you have long been doing. It does not qualify you to be President.

And it does not qualify you to know, what you have so confidently asserted, that man-made climate change global warming is a hoax.

Anyone who believes that would probably agree to put a paper bag over his chauffeur’s head.


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