Oops: I should have applied sunscreen today. My face is red. Silly me.
I’m typing in a hotel bar, then sipping my first Venezuelan rum. Here in North Tenerife, it’s raining, as it has done for most of the day, but with a brief interlude – hence my mild sunburn. I haven’t stayed in such a basic hotel since I holidayed in Albania, ten years ago. It does the job, though. Just.
Over the last few days, I have spent my time with a British couple, who are selling their business. I’m interested, very interested indeed, in acquiring it. If nothing else, here in Tenerife the ambulances, hospitals and emergency call-handling, all function.
Back home in Broken Britain, good luck getting medical care today. “Don’t do anything remotely dangerous today” instructs Sunak’s Government – (such as allowing 50,000 excess deaths). In more sensible times, presiding over so many unnecessary deaths and a falling life expectancy would be grounds for a lengthy custodial sentence. But most of the public are distracted by Prince Harry.
But enough about that. Over the last few weeks, I have been chewing over an issue which vexes me.
Let me tell you a story.
Twenty-one years ago, on 9/11, an hour or so before those awful events, my good friend – let’s call him “J” – collected our Iranian visas from the Iranian embassy in London. We were going to Iran!
Then, two planes later, our travels plans were changed, as was the world. Instead of travelling from Greece to Burma/Myanmar overland, given that travel insurance to most of the Muslim world was voided, we went to India instead.
By the third week in India, we found ourselves – as a backpacking cliche – in Goa. We hired scooters – of course we did – bumming around the beaches and bars, before retiring to our 50p per night hostel. Rinse and repeat, day after day.
Everything changed one fateful day when J ordered a chicken sandwich from a hut – a hut which didn’t have a refrigerator. We had been the first – and last – customers of that day. We both recall the look on the faces of the staff as J bit into that sandwich.
Delhi Belly beckoned: horrendous for him and vicariously for me, given that we were sharing a crummy room. As J’s condition deteriorated, I summoned a doctor: pills were prescribed, so was the strong recommendation that we checked into accommodation more salubrious.
Not far from our lodgings, I found better huts, with intermittent warm water in the shower. Unusually, these new digs had a swimming pool. At £5 per night, shared between us, it was comparably expensive. This attracted a different sort of backpacker.
As the days passed, J’s condition improved. Eventually, he was well enough to swim. In the pool, the could-have-done-with-some-filtration water was far too low, making it quite taxing to clamber out.
One sunny afternoon, J noticed that there were dozens of frogs drowning in the pool. They were, he thought, marooned, unable to get out. Ever the nature-lover, J swam around, carefully scooping the frogs out of the pool, depositing them safely on solid ground. Mission accomplished.
Listening to my Walkman, I watched with fascination, proud of my friend’s good work. Then, almost imperceptibly at first, the surrounding trees became increasingly lively with movement: birds – lots of them and goodness knows the species – began to assemble, like onlookers to a playground fight.
In sync, the birds dive-bombed towards the pool, scooping-up every last frog, before returning to the trees to devour lunch. It was a feeding frenzy. J was crestfallen. Every frog met its maker.
(Only later did we appreciate that the frogs were, in fact, cooling down, and could easily get out of the pool when they wanted.)
Loosely, tangentially, this incident reminded me of, one, Donald Trump.
Trump is vile, with every unpleasant description of him, justified. He’s the very worst example for children. But notwithstanding his awfulness, dispassionately, we should remember his many good deeds and sound predictions.
Trump crossed the DMZ between North and South Korea, which delivered a short-lived rapprochement between these two warring parties. For a time, “Little Rocket Man” stopped firing rockets. Now, under Biden, North Korea routinely fires its rockets over Japan.
In the Middle East, spearheaded by Trump, several Arab nations signed peace deals with Israel, under the Abraham Accords. More Arab countries will follow suit. On Trump’s watch, let’s not forget that the Taliban didn’t control Afghanistan and Russia didn’t invade Ukraine, nor did China routinely fly into Taiwanese airspace. Although Trump was addicted to tweeting childishly, the world was more peaceful on his watch. A prospective nuclear exchange was not, as it is now, a possibility.
And we should be fair to the Donald, for on multiple occasions Trump demanded that other NATO countries paid their fair share for their own defence, reasonably asking: why should US taxpayers pay a disproportionate sum to protect Europe from Russia? And most presciently, Trump repeatedly advised Germany not to rely upon Russian gas. If only Germany had listened, Russian might not have felt emboldened to attack Ukraine. He was a vile embarrassment, but on the international stage – and I cannot believe that I am writing this – the world was safer with him in the White House.
I won’t comment on Trump’s tenure from an internal US perspective, for I don’t feel suitably qualified to express a fair view. And, before any reader point it out, Trump was wrong on environmental issues.
I remain troubled that my friend – J – with the very best of hearts and with impeccable motivation, inadvertently killed dozens of frogs. Conversely, Trump – whom I detest on a personal level and was most probably erroneously motivated – performed acts worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize. Obama received a Nobel Prize for his vision and oratory, but deeds are infinitely more powerful than words. Internationally, do we need Trump again? Do you feel safe today? I don’t.
I am compelled to conclude that the world is even more complicated than I had thought. Good people can – by commission and by omission – cause mass suffering and, conversely, dreadful human beings can do so much good. My homework? To re-evaluate what I look for in a leader.