Why Donald Trump is a Genius: The history of how we arrived where we are, intellectually

From the times of at least the Mesolithic era humans have built ritualistic centers of symbolic significance to integrate the experiences of the individual with the greater collection of society. The roots of communism and socialism in 2018 point back to this innate desire of humans to be accepted by their peers. There may not have been ever in politics at a high level a person like Donald Trump who is so self-assured that he doesn’t require the approval of others to function. He enjoys approval, but he does not require it to make decisions, and that is a very new thing relatively speaking in human development over the ages. And to those who control the transfer of power, or rather, have controlled it—this is a scary time. When they’ve needed to deny Trump social authority to keep him under control from their perspective, the United States President has proceeded on without them showing remarkable self confidence—which culminated in gasps of horror when the political left threw all their bets into a new Michael Wolff book about Trump hoping to paint him as insane—to stir up congressional sentiment to remove the president from office using the 25th Amendment. Instead, Trump stood with the leaders of congress and declared that he was so smart that he was a genius which is something a person just doesn’t publicly declare about themselves. Humans are not supposed to be that vain; they must await that assessment by others—aren’t they?

I didn’t talk about it at the time but on April 24th of 2017 the great American philosopher Robert Pirsig died at his home at the age of 88. Pirsig was a great thinker and created the metaphysics of quality philosophy which in the business world I consider much more important than the business shift to Lean manufacturing. Pirsig had a lot in common with the transcendentalist William James and his two books Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Lila were classics that stand up to even the greatest thinkers of philosophy. But life was not always good to Pirsig—his philosophy was forged from a hard life. Shortly after his second child was born Pirsig suffered a nervous breakdown and spent time in and out of psychiatric hospitals. As part of his treatment for what they called paranoid schizophrenia and clinical depression he was treated with electroconvulsive therapy. It was a rough go for Pirsig—his wife left him and he had to start all over as his children were growing. Less than ten years later Pirsig found himself on a motorcycle dealing with his schizophrenia taking a road trip with one of his sons. The result of this trip became Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The book was a hit catapulting Pirsig into the upper echelons of thoughtful Americans then in 1979 the son who went on the trip with him was killed in San Francisco, stabbed to death after a mugging. Although the work he produced in many cases was considered genius, everything he did was a product of his mind collapsing on itself and falling into insanity for a period, if not the entire time.

Just six years after the publication of the fantastic work by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra the German philosopher was hugging a horse outside his home trying to stop it from being flogged with a whip. He wasn’t even 40 years of age yet and the great man was having a mental breakdown for which he never recovered. His much maligned sister cared for him after the suicide of her own husband and it was under her care that essentially the Nazi party emerged. Not long after Nietzsche died did Adolf Hitler emerge who loved the work of the German philosopher so much that he built much of his ideology around it. How much of Nietzsche’s work was genius and how much was pure insanity is hard to tell because the definition of sanity is shaped by the masses. Those who step out beyond what is considered normal are what shape the thoughts of tomorrow, not compliance to a previous order. Yet to move too far from the norm means that a human mind is on its own—it loses the support of its peers which biologically has always been a concern.

And so it has gone for many generations, mankind has pushed against the psychological needs of society to conduct mass rituals publicly ordained and to align the yearnings of the human soul to an authentic experience specific to itself—and much of the time insanity has followed. In Nietzsche’s case his desire for anti-institutional mechanisms to free individuality from group think actually became the foundations for socialism in Nazi Germany and fascism in Italy—because mankind fell short of the high mark objectives of those uniquely new philosophies. And certainly the work of Robert Pirsig still is giving the world fits in how they could possibly bring together the two philosophies of East and West to arrive at a definition of quality that goes well beyond the subject-object scientific method. Just because the kids in the front of the class get good grades in school, it doesn’t mean they will become the best elements of our society—it may actually be them who become the destroyers of civilization—yet we continue to conduct our society in the fashion of such insanity—even though we have the books and understanding to know better. It’s like knowing you have diabetes and yet you eat a whole cake and a twelve pack of sugary soda anyway—then wonder why you have to cut off your legs because of nerve damage. One thing causes the other yet it is difficult for our group think to accept such a radical change in living pattern—so we continue on with the destructive behavior.

The genius of Donald Trump is that he has emerged through his life and all the tragedies that come with it, as a remarkably complete and self-assured man. Part of his genius is that he is able to act without the collective approval of the society at large—which keeps him from being manipulated by lesser minds. He’s been able to do this where so many others have failed before him—people we consider great in hindsight. However, we’re not yet ready to say that what Trump does is a genius because he does not let the second-handers come along for the ride like previous voyagers into thought have done. Trump is truly his own man and can function completely on his own. Although he does like approval of his peers, he is not crippled into inaction if he doesn’t get it, and that is something new. New for the human race—while there are certainly free thinkers functioning in the world, they have not made it into such a high office before. In that regard what Trump is doing is what Zarathustra was attempting to do in Nietzsche’s famous book. And that’s not insanity. The only insanity that is going on is the group thinkers trying to reconcile their collective yearnings to this new individualized standard. But the standard itself set by Trump is actually the sanest thing in the world and if he doesn’t say so—who will?

Human beings for over 300,000 to perhaps millions of years have required group think to accept a new idea and this has kept mankind from ever breaking a cycle of birth and death for which has loomed over all our efforts since the beginning of recorded time. It has held us back tremendously and it was only when the United States declared its independence from the world and survived the War of 1812 that a new philosophy emerged that climaxed long after Nietzsche, Marx and many others came and went. Robert Pirsig was onto it, and he went crazy trying to develop it—because it was essentially the first time in the history of the world that a human being scratched away at the protections of group think to see what might reside outside of our intellectual bubbles. The result has been and is Donald Trump—a character that essentially stepped out of the pages of Ayn Rand and the ministry of Norman Vincent Peale—and emerged from a uniquely American city to become it’s master of capitalism and the morality of money. Then for Trump to be voted into the White House to bring those values to the rest of America—the action becoming one of the greatest events in world history—not in a political sense, but a philosophical one. In that regard Donald Trump is a vessel of immense intellectual capacity, only it’s different from what came before. This time it is individually based whereas everything that came before was of a collective consciousness and we can see now that the madness was never in the individual yearning from the freedom of institutional controls, but the institutions themselves trying to hold back the individual from discovering their true potential all along.

(And for the record, it is quite obvious that humans and Neanderthals evolved separately, not in succession. The fossil record and radio-carbon dating of many human developments go well back to pre-Ice Age establishments. At this point science is saying that humans are much older than we previously thought.)

Rich Hoffman

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