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The Why of Trump and His Policies

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Message Arshad M Khan
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Not only are we in a sense defined by our DNA, but new research shows our behavior may also be affected by that of our ancestors. So observe the authors of a paper published in Science Advances recently. Thomas Talhelm from the University of Chicago has an interest in the cultural differences between northern and southern China. Northerners are considered more individualistic, brash and aggressive, while southerners are conflict averse and more deferential.


The first part of the study observed 8964 people sitting in a cafe in six cities across China and found that northerners were more likely to be sitting alone. The second part was more proactive. The researchers moved chairs in Starbucks across the country to partially block an aisle. True to type, people in the north, as from Beijing and Shenyang, were more than twice as likely to move the chair out of the way than people in Hong Kong or Shanghai, the latter being most averse.


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The authors note that herding is an individualistic activity, constant moving making for transitory relationships (the US?), whereas farming is a settled occupation with stable, long-term ties. Now they have taken farming a step further: Rice farming in the south requires complex irrigation systems for the paddies forcing cooperation and coordination among multiple families. In contrast, farming dry-land crops like wheat and millet requiring less cooperation is more individualistic. The authors contend that over time, the tightly coordinated rice farming pushed southerners towards "a more interdependent culture".


In the last couple of years we have seen a cooperative Europe facing a quintessential maverick, as in Donald Trump, a man who lives in his own world. So why is Trump, Trump? As in the study, clues to his behavior ought to lie in his ancestors.

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The town of Kallstadt, Germany, given the character of its people, is sick and tired of being asked about Mr. Trump, his forbears, his grandfather's house called Trump Haus, and other assorted questions in similar vein.

Mr. Trump's grandfather Fredrich was born in Kallstadt, a village inundated with wineries, where seats for wine-tasting during the season outnumber the population. It produces predominately Riesling. Vintners, individualist in the extreme, guard their secrets and promote their brand, the ultimate bottle price a reflection of perceived value as even experts can disagree on quality.


Grandfather Fredrich left at the age of 16 to make his fortune in the U.S. He and his wife returned to Kallstadt to retire but there were problems as he had failed to complete his obligatory military service, and the couple were forced to go back to America.


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If there are overtones in Donald the grandson, then, as they say, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. He recalls a childhood trip to Kallstadt with his father Fred, "It was wine country, it was serious Germany," adding "I have a warm spot in my heart for Germany," On his mother's side, he is Scottish: Mary Anne MacLeod emigrated from the Outer Hebrides, Scotland and was a domestic worker before she married his father. Yet in "The Art of the Deal" published in 1987, he claims Swedish ancestry, as did his father. Living in a different world, it's always Trump the salesman with a convenient truth. He may have had inviting ideas for those fed up with our wars but they are difficult to pursue alone .


If rice farmers are the most cooperative and wheat growers more individualistic, then wine-makers are off the scale, even though in grape production small growers might band together for economy.

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Arshad M Khan is a former Professor. Educated at King's College London, Oklahoma State University and the University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. He was elected a Fellow of the (more...)
 
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