Thursday, April 27, 2017

Gwynne Dyer

Last nite was a special unexpected treat for me.  Gwynne Dyer is my favourite newspaper columnist and I don't say that as an isolated newspaper reader.  I enjoy the columnists for the New York Times and Washington Post amongst others, but Gwynne has impressed me the most.  Somehow he appeared at my local library, Hamilton Public Library.  He did not disappoint.

Trying to figure out what makes him different, the library CEO explained his interest came from noticing the mainstream news did not cover the developing world in any depth, except Gwynne Dyer did.  Although he has a very strong military background (has taught at military colleges and traveled more than most) he has an awareness of political dynamics that is well beyond most.  That also means he understands human dynamics.  The first of the so-called political pundits who recognized the seriousness of climate change.  As a fellow Canadian he realized that although the Western world was dominant it wasn't the only factor in the global affairs.

The topic was Donald Trump, a subject that seems to be on everyone's mind.  Gwynne admitted several times he didn't like him and originally, back in November thought Americans could not be that dumb.  Based in London he also thought the Brits would not be dumb enough to exit the EU.   After interviewing countless people he has evolved his thinking to the point he thinks Donald Trump might be the wake up call needed.

One difference he explained was that immigration was a  bigger issue in Britain as they were not as used to immigrants unlike United States (and Canada) where most of us are at best a few generations from immigrants ourselves.  Ironically where immigrants are well established in the big cities there was not a strong backlash against them, but in other areas they were one of the key factors.

In America a more serious problem was jobs.  He said official stats are misleading, the true unemployment is much higher in the United States.  The problem is not only one of finance, but also of humiliation.  It is easy to blame outsourcing and immigrants, but Gwynne maintains by far the bigger factor is automation and it will continue to get worse.  Unless something is done he sees anger deciding elections.  The anger could result in someone worse than Donald Trump who he sees like a canary in the coal mine.  One bit of humour (of many instances) was that in twenty years something like 50% of jobs will fall to automation.  He suggested that pole dancing would not.

One possible solution to the dilemma is a universal basic income.  The world is not ready just yet.  He related an experience in Switzerland where the attempt through a referendum failed, was explained as a necessary first step.  He thinks that since the election more people are talking about universal basic income.

His speech was relatively short, but the question period was very interesting.  He handled it brilliantly, giving people a chance to speak their mind.  Korea, Syria were covered with realistic answers.  One of the organizers had to help close the questions or I suspect he would have carried on.

One guest recalled  a talk given at Sir Wilfred Laurier University around 1996 and asked if he had changed his mind.  First he joked that he thought he had had everyone at that talk killed.  He admitted that he might have changed a bit, but that most of his core beliefs are the same

Another guest asked about how inequality is increasing and he foresees that mankind will revert to what most of its history with dictators ruling over the poor masses.  Gwyne reverted back to hunter-gatherer days when there was much more equality, but then when mankind got civilized  more decisions were made top down, because there was relatively poor communication.  The great salvation today is that  there is mass communication.

On another question he commented that the right contained some smart rich people (the ones who earned their money, not those who inherited it) who could easily see that for them to be rich they need customers and they need to avoid a revolution.   One of the big concerns about Universal basic income is if those receiving it will be motivated to do the still necessary work.  He mentioned that  Hamilton is one of three Ontario cities  that will experiment among poor and will help determine a future course.

Gwynne felt that one of the best hopes for the future was international alliances.  One factor with the formation of the EU was to avoid future wars amongst the European powers and it worked with many other benefits.  Recent developments have restored some of his faith after the Brexit  and Trump disasters.  The United Nations has also been successful in avoiding wars between the big powers.

He also suggested we should encourage Michelle Obama to run for president in 2020.

I met some good friends, Rob and  Sue and learned we have something in common.  Gwynne's column is the first thing they look for in the local paper.

If you are not accessible to one of the 100 or so newspapers around the world that carry his twice weekly columns you can check him out at his webiste:  http://gwynnedyer.com

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