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The Daily Devil’s Dictionary: “Take Advantage” of America?

Looking at the world from a different advantage point.

Donald Trump, author of Art of the Deal and also president of the United States, in his public speaking often invokes the notion of “taking advantage,” a central element of his worldview. If we are to believe the evidence of his notorious Access Hollywood tape, he would have approved of this notice discovered in a hotel bedroom in India: “You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid at any hour. She alway’s [sic] happy to help in any way.”

The White House made it clear that the idea of taking advantage also has political meaning. This is from the official transcript of Trump’s most recent cabinet meeting: “People are tired of the United States — the people that live here, our great citizens that love this country — they’re tired of this country being taken advantage of, and we’re not going to be taken advantage of any longer.”

Here is today’s 3D definition, from Trump’s point of view:

Take advantage of:

Refuse to submit to the dictates of someone who is powerful and rich enough to crush you and will in all cases threaten to do so unless you capitulate before making your decision

Contextual note

Trump was reacting to the intention of the majority of the world’s nations to counter his decision to transfer the US embassy to Jerusalem, a decision considered by his allies as well as his critics to be unwise and probably illegal. Here is how he sees the “deal” the US has done with the rest of the world:

“I like the message that Nikki sent yesterday at the United Nations for all of these nations that take our money and then they vote against us at the Security Council, or they vote against us potentially at the assembly. They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars, and then they vote against us. Well, we’re watching those votes. Let them vote against us, we’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”

The “money” he claims the other nations “take” is foreign aid, a key part of standard diplomatic give-and-take since the end of the Second World War — a give-and-take that has always been favorable to the US, enabling it to establish itself as the “leader of the free world.” As The Guardian points out, the targeted beneficiaries of this aid are typically “UN members in Africa, Asia and Latin America who are regarded as more vulnerable to US pressure,” in other words, the less-developed nations of the world who are kept in a relationship of dependence with America. Trump apparently sees this aid not as a key to diplomacy, but simply as a kind of business contract in which the US pays for the unconditional loyalty of otherwise sovereign nations.

His resounding “we’ll save a lot. We don’t care” illustrates Trump’s belief that everything, including diplomatic relations and respect for international law, has a ticket price. The fact that no one in his cabinet or even the media finds this expression of his political philosophy aberrant tells us something about how US culture has evolved, reflecting The Devil’s Dictionary style definition of the word cynic that Oscar Wilde once framed in his play, Lady Windermere’s Fan: “A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

Historical note

In the same cabinet meeting, Vice President Mike Pence offered this appreciation of the impact of Donald Trump’s foreign policy decisions on the rest of the world: “You’ve restored American credibility on the world stage. We’re standing with our allies. We’re standing up to our enemies.”

This is the same man who just this week had to delay, if not cancel, his planned visit to the Middle East, officially to handle pressing business at home, but more likely because of powerful backlash abroad against Trump’s policy. It’s interesting to note that what seems obvious to both Al Jazeera and The Guardian has escaped the mainstream US media, such as CNN, who blandly report the White House’s explanation that Pence is needed at home to help with the passage of the GOP tax bill in the Senate.

In response to Trump’s threats, the foreign minister of Turkey, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, dared to contradict Pence’s flattering optimism at the cabinet meeting: “The world has changed. The belief that ‘I am strong therefore I am right’ has changed. The world today is revolting against injustices.”

A frank and lucid cynic — one devoid of the illusions promoted by politicians — today would say to Pence and Çavuşoğlu: I think you’re both dreaming.

But one lucid observer, a senior diplomat from a Muslim country quoted by The Guardian, offered a definition of bullying consistent with the logic of The Daily Devil’s Dictionary: “States resort to such blatant bullying only when they know they do not have a moral or legal argument to convince others.”

A note to our readers

The Daily Devil will be taking an end-of-year break and will be back in force with new definitions in January 2018. With diabolical glee, we wish our readers a happy holiday season and a prosperous 2018, especially to our American friends in the highest tax brackets, who decidedly will have nothing to worry about.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: JStone / Shutterstock.com