What Do You Want?

Establish and maintain the aim.
– First principle of war as told to me
by retired members of the Canadian Armed Forces

Selection and maintenance of the aim.
– Master principle of war as defined by
Canadian Armed Forces doctrine and by the British Army

Objective – Direct every military operation toward
a clearly defined, decisive and attainable objective.
““ First listed principle of war, per the United States Armed Forces

It’s one idea, I can see that. Maybe it’s the editor cum project manager in me that makes me prefer the first version.  Clear. Direct. Action oriented.

Establish and maintain the aim.

It’s a principle that applies in many of life’s activities. Take physiotherapy, for example. At my age, I hear this question from physios: “What are your goals?” Put another way, “When will you know that you’re done – that we’ve achieved what we reasonably can?” They might as well ask, “What is your aim?”

Or consider end-of-life decisions. Given that I can’t live forever, what makes my life worth living?  It’s the same thing in different words. For my final days, whenever they may be, what’s my aim?

“What do you want?”
– “Crocodile” Mick Dundee to Sue Charlton
via two helpful subway passengers

Or, finally, consider any injury, any issue worth complaining about. Before complaining to the person or organization I consider responsible, I try to ask myself, “What do I want? What is the remedy I’m seeking?” Sometimes there is no practical remedy: nothing that can be done to make things right for me. Where my aim is simply to complain, I try to keep my mouth shut instead. I don’t always succeed.

This brings me to the current protests about President-elect Donald Trump. Goodness knows, there are ample grounds for complaint. What there is not, I think, is much chance of remedy.

Trump will not step down.

The Electoral College will not over-turn the election results.

Trump will not magically change overnight. Whoever he is, he will continue to be, for good or ill or both.

What puzzles me, though, is that there seems to be no thought of remedy. Summing it up, the protesters I have heard interviewed just seem to want people to know that they’re not happy.

Guys. I’ve got that. Truly, I think everyone’s got it. It sort of went without saying. Without demonstrating. Without booing or lecturing the Vice-President-elect in a Broadway theatre.

Your Constitution gives you the right of free speech and I respect that immensely. I just can’t help wondering when you’ll know you’re done using it in this case. I mean, what’s your aim?


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12 Responses to What Do You Want?

  1. JimTaylor says:

    We seem to have been on a common thought path this week.
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – It seems so. Not the first time. For other readers, Jim’s blog is currently in technical difficulties so I can’t post a link. If you’d like to read it, let me know and I’ll pass along Jim’s email. Here’s the conclusion of this week’s piece:

      “It seems to me that American voters thought they were living in a “Family Church” context. Then they discovered they actually lived in a Corporate world. The lobbyists, bureaucrats, professional politicians, and political elite run everything. Their activities develop an irresistible momentum. They’re almost unstoppable.

      Until the next election. That’s the most fundamental characteristic of a democracy – a government can be voted out.

      Democracy is, at base, a system of governance. Mass protests, sit-ins, and petitions are ways of influencing governments. But they are not, and must not become, a way of governing.”

  2. Tom Watson says:

    Yep, the protesters think it’s a “rigged system” and, given that Clinton received in excess of one million votes more than Clinton, they claim to have the proof. Funny thing, that was Trump’s claim all along too. Until he won.

    Although I think the protesters are barking up the wrong hemlock, Trump barked like that – protesting everything in sight – all the way to a win.

    Does it depend upon who’s doing the shouting and screaming? Makes a fella wonder.


    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – It’s a little bit like the denials of rumoured trades in baseball – it’s all no, no, no and until, suddenly, it’s yes. Things said while campaigning are worth . . . not much, until they’re repeated while governing. And in a basically fair system, complaints from the losers (actual and anticipated) are to be expected, but are worth not much at all.

  3. Hello, Isabel,
    As Jim probably will not receive my email on this topic, I will share it here.
    Protests are protected under the US Constitution’s first amendment, so they DO “equal” democracy, unless they turn violent. Protests aim to change something. Democracy is not simply an election mechanism. The “democratic” values of the US are stated in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution and its amendments. Those values were being outspokenly challenged throughout Trump’s campaign and he is flaunting them flagrantly through the people he is naming for his cabinet and other posts.

    Trump made an end run around the traditional political media with Twitter, and with the interference run by Facebook in that play. Both forms of mass communication subverted the far more intellectual media of television and newspapers that Trump found harder to control to reach his followers, although his surrogate Kellyanne Conway did a superb job of lying to the TV camera on his behalf. His rabble-rousing rallies also reached his followers. He used his ties with Russia and the FBI’s Comey to sway the election. Now he is subverting traditions, laws, rules, and Constitutional values as he appoints his thoroughly undemocratic closest advisors to positions of power. He has managed to use a democratic process to topple democratic values. A voting mechanism doth not a democracy make.The people of all political stripes who run for office must uphold democratic ideals. When Trump was allowed to run for office, the democracy was jeopardized. Since he won, it’s dead.

    In that melee of inverted and perverted values, the democratic/Democratic opposition is reverting — so far, peacefully — to the rights of assembly that could start a revolution. Remember that the American democracy was birthed in revolution and that Americans are armed to the teeth. From the standpoint of the inception of American democracy, mass protests DO “equal” democracy. And, if faced with undemocratic leaders, Americans profoundly believe in revolting. They have funded revolutions in other countries, taking sides with the faction that seems more expedient to their interests. The presently disgruntled protesters in this post-election scenario are more likely to keep the peace but the nature of the peace will depend on how riled they become by what Trump and his cronies actually do once officially empowered. We are seeing from what they are doing right now what the future holds.

    Now, think about what Trump’s voters are going to do when he fails to make good on all of his election promises to them as he certainly will fail, especially on economic improvements. They will become part of the protesting masses but with less pacific values than the current of unhappy Democrats swirling in the streets. As Trump “steps over their cold, dead bodies” in the prophetic phrase of Tim Ryan (D) Ohio this past week, they could rise in a zombie apocalypse.

    From the standpoint of the values Trump espoused in his rallies, mass protests and even armed protests are “justifiable.” But Trump, who is bipolar, will always try to “have it both ways” so that anyone who disagrees with him is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. In other words, protests on his behalf are OK but protests on behalf of his opponents are not OK. Now he has the power of a despot to exert the ebb and flow of his mental processes on all Americans and on the world. I know bipolarity inside out. You cannot win if you grant the unstable person power unless you have a kind of staying power of your own to outlive the unstable person. Or can impeach him, which is highly unlikely given the Republican majorities in Senate and House of Representatives. Or can find a coalition that will drug or otherwise overpower that individual, which is what happened to Adolph Hitler. Or, you can cure her or him or pray that someone else will.

    Let’s remember that the US under the NSA has a shadow judiciary, a shadow spy agency that has most of the world under surveillance, police forces armed with military weapons, and the strongest military in the world that can be turned on its own citizens as well as on everyone else.

    So, what is your objection to mass protests stating “Trump is not my President” and just how do you suggest “fixing” the totalitarian state that has been rising despite the superficial smiles and outmoded mechanisms of the American electoral process? Since medical science hasn’t yet figured out the nature and the cure for mental illness, candidates are not screened for stability, although anyone with a grain of sense should be able to figure out those differences between the various candidates without my arcane knowledge. The recent election also reflects the educational disparities in the electorate. The people who elected Trump and who allowed him to be elected are about to make up those educational deficits — the hard way.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Selective quotation (and how can quotation not be that?) often does a disservice to a complex argument – and I may have done that to Jim’s piece. Here’s another selective quote, with bolding added to address some of your comments:
      “If only popular support mattered, Trump’s election campaign would be a triumph of democracy. He was not elected by party machinery. Rather, he and his followers trampled all over party traditions, to get to the White House. But democracy is not just about winning. It’s about compromise, collaboration, and delegation.”

      I’ll let Jim speak for himself from now on. 🙂 For me, I don’t see Trump as quite the apocalyptic figure that you do, but I don’t object to peaceful protests, mass or otherwise. I just admit to being puzzled about the intent. Perhaps it’s to spark a revolution, a possibility you identify. That would at least be a reason I can understand. Expressing displeasure with no remedy/outcome in mind is, in my view, not productive.

  4. Laurna Tallman says:

    It strikes me as funny that among us we are trying to have a nuanced discussion on an important topic in a medium we find almost useless for its limitations while this is the very medium, along with Twitter, that has allowed the subject of our topic to springboard himself into a position of almost limitless power. The protesters on the street are making their views known more widely than we, which may be reason enough for their marching.

  5. Tom Watson says:

    I discovered I have a problem. I think the problem is that I’ve grown too old.

    I have been mulling over your reply to mine. I actually don’t think campaign promises are like rumoured trades in baseball. They’re more akin to selling something under false pretenses. If making campaign promises you have no intention of keeping – saying anything you need to say to garner votes – is taken to be the legitimate standard now, I think that’s one more sign of a breakdown in democracy…or, at least, it’s not the democracy I thought I knew and believe in. (When I wasn’t, ahem, as old as I am now.)

    I also grew up with the notion that a person’s word was his/her bond. No longer, of course; if you don’t get it writing you haven’t got a leg to stand on. However, I tend to take people at their word. If someone lies to me once, if the relationship means something to me I will overlook it and carry on. Lie to me twice, I get a bit skeptical. String a bunch of lies together, I know longer have any way of knowing when the person is telling me the truth, so I stop believing anything that person says.

    While you may be right that Donald Trump is not the apocalyptic figure some make him out to be, he did pave the way to electoral victory with more lies than anyone could imagine possible. What then would suggest that anyone should trust him about anything? And, by the way, he has proven himself untrustworthy in far too many situations.

    I heard it said that Trump’s opponents took him “literally but not seriously” while his supporters took him “seriously but not literally.” My view: that’s a sad state of affairs.

    Although I remain uncomfortable with the protests, and am not clear what they hope to gain from them, and don’t think they will gain anything in the end, I nonetheless think I have a hunch as to why they are taking place. It goes beyond the fact that “their side” lost and are therefore complaining; it’s based on the fear that Trump actually did mean what he said sometimes – about immigrants, about refugees, about religions he doesn’t like, and so on. They also seem to have the sense that the system in this particular election wasn’t fair and…well, there does seem to be some credence to that claim.

    Cheers, Isabel. Keep pluggin’!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – You make a good point. Denying baseball trade rumours is a lot like fending off a nosy neighbour: neither the press nor the public has the right to an answer just because they asked the question, nor do they have any direct involvement in the contract between the team and the player. Political promises, by contrast, involve two parties considering entering into a contract, so if the voter can’t trust the candidate, what’s the point of listening to them at all?

      Re the protests, another reader has suggested that fear (actually, terror) is what’s driving the protests, and that could be. My view of protests was formed by watching the 1960s civil rights protest marches on TV and the anti-war demonstrations in the Vietnam era, both of which had clear objectives (although not easy/quick to deliver). Maybe my view of the world is also coloured by my profession, in which there wasn’t much point in complaining about how the customer had defined the procurement – you just had to carry on and do your best under the rules of engagement they had set. That’s not an approach that leads to righting great wrongs, but it does get things done, day by day. Maybe protesting something you can’t change gives others who do have some control/influence a little more motivation to push back – like, say, on Trump’s proposals, when the do emerge.

  6. Mary Elford says:

    Thank you all for these thoughtful responses. I’m afraid of what is coming to the south of Canada, and to the world.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Mary – People can still converse reasonably in small corners of the world, and I think it’s always helpful – both the act of doing it and the things I learn from other perspectives. And as for being afraid, I think you have lots of company. On the other hand, I’m sure you remember that President Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” which I always took to mean that we shouldn’t let fear paralyze us.

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