Monday, April 26, 2021

Book report

I used to travel a lot before Covid-19. At least one transatlantic trip every year, with multiple hops between Ireland, England and France; and a trip to Seattle at least once every six weeks for work. I love to read and that was when I did most of my reading, sitting in airports and during the long tedious flights. The rest of my time was filled with work, working from home resulted in even longer hours at my desk and I found I was accumulating a number of books but with no time to read. I have a habit of buying books I would like to read, as I come across them; this is so much easier with e-books of course, which is what I prefer.

I fixed this problem by increasing my daily treadmill walk from 30 minutes to 1 hour during which time I read while at the same time counteracting the long periods of sitting at my desk. In the past month I completed Mary Trump's book and will finish reading Michael Cohen's book this week. Both books, I am sure you are aware, are about Donald Trump; they come at him from completely different angles. Mary Trump's describes his formative years and the dysfunctional family that created him. Michael Cohen gives insight into how he managed to suck otherwise intelligent people into his cult.

My impression was that Mary wrote her book as a form of therapy, in the same way that I wrote mine. She was after all, part of that dysfunctional family. Obviously her tragedy was far greater than mine and it was impressive how she managed to remove herself from it; however I found it slightly irritating that, as a psychologist, she made so many excuses for her own father, Donald Trump's older brother, who could not remove himself. Perhaps it is because she is a psychologist that she excused him. It frustrated me that he managed to separate himself from his family for long enough to built the possibility of a decent life for his wife and children, but his self destruct button was way too big and he could not sustain his independence; and while the toxic family interactions caused Trump to turn into the self serving and very dangerous narcissist - because he was already a person without empathy, his older brother was clearly a very sensitive soul and was in turn destroyed for his virtues. Very sad. On the other hand, I admire the way Mary related her story without any indication of self pity or bitterness, despite how badly she was treated by that family. I highly recommend the book.

Michael Cohen's book on the other hand, comes across as alternately confession and excuses; constantly referring to the cult like atmosphere around Trump that kept him and so many other, apparently intelligent, people not just closely bound to Trump, but prepared to do anything to please him - or more correctly, avoid incurring his displeasure, no matter how demeaning, illegal or cruel, or all three. It amazes me that people who are rich and powerful in their own right, become so dazzled by a man who I see as fat, ugly, stupid, a liar, a racist, a narcissist (confirmed by his psychologist niece), totally lacking in empathy and filled with so many other vile human failings with no redeeming qualities. I can only conclude that despite being relatively intelligent, they don't have sufficient belief in themselves and so they need to hitch their wagon to someone who firmly believes the most amazingly obvious lies he tells himself and others in order to appear better than everyone else. Or, perhaps they are basically bad people from the start and just needed someone to make them feel it was OK to be that way.

The term 'cult' has a number of differing but similar definitions:

  • a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object.
  • a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.
  • a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing.

It doesn't surprise me that the term cult is associated with religion. As I see it, it appeals to the herd instinct in the same way a religion does; where religion uses the need to believe in a greater power, unseen but apparently real, to control large crowds of people (and also to separate them from their money) so does a cult, though in many cases with cults, the greater power is actually right there for all to see their lack of any qualities worth following. 

According to this link, therapist Rachel Bernstein, who specializes in treating cult survivors said her former cult member patients often tell her they would've never joined the cult if they weren't going through a difficult life event at the time they were approached to join. As I dug deeper into the Google vault to try to understand the mentality of anyone who would get sucked into a cult I started to understand why I found it so hard to understand.

This link states:

"Folks who long for greater human connection may also be more likely to fall victim to a cult. Close relationships are a human need. By capitalizing on this proclivity, cults can be that much more insidious."

I don't long for greater human connection, I don't need someone to tell me what to do and how to think, in fact I strongly object to that; hence I am not religious and while I understand people who are religious, I have no understanding of people who join cults of any kind. I never will. Therefore my final conclusion of Michael Cohen's book is, while it is an interesting read because it gives insight into the horribly corrupt cult of Trump, it is basically Michael Cohen trying to excuse himself for being part of it and for being eventually abandoned and cast aside by his orange leader.

Both books are easy reads and I recommend them, unless you are a staunch, unquestioning Trump supporter that is, because if you are you will not enjoy them.

Finally, if you want more information on cults, this is a fascinating website and in particular this article is worth a read.

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