Peter Smith: The Other Great Divide | Guest Commentary on Blog#42

The Other Great Divide

It is not a new phenomenon. We often concentrate on what we think is “important” and in the process ignore something that is “more important.” The “important,” right now, is “The 1% vs. the 99%” – the “more important” is “The 13% vs. the 87%.”

13% is a guess. 13 is my lucky number, but 13% is probably a good guess. It’s possible that it is too large.

It struck me the other day that it is literally the case that in a long life, all of the people I have known well are what most of us would call “good.” That is to say that they are law-abiding, they tell the truth most of the time, they are kind and friendly in most of their dealings, they “live and let live.”

There are all kinds of things that could be added to that definition of good. For example I have held onto some words of Emerson ever since I first came on them: “I would not want to count among my friends a man who knowingly would step upon a worm.”

Each of us could come up with a list of standard virtues, but my guess is that those millions of lists would have numerous items in common.

The divide I want to remind people about is not the gap between the haves and the have-nots; it is about the chasm between the decent and the deformed. The latter group is made up of, most obviously, psychopaths and sociopaths, inveterate criminals, people who are pathologically greedy, and sadists of all kinds.

Add to them the chronically manipulative, the unreformable haters (I suspect that that’s a small group), and the people who are always too busy to love anyone but themselves.

And in a category of their own are the people who deliberately misinform millions; who degrade every medium of public discourse they control; who have only contempt for their viewers and their listeners and their readers; they are, in my opinion, to use a phrase made famous by Aneurin Bevan, lower than vermin.

Aneurin Bevan – a Welshman – was both the father and the midwife of the British National Health Service. It came into existence in 1948 – which is nearly 70 years ago. SEVENTY YEARS AGO.

I am suggesting that the “deformed” among the world’s six billion people are, perhaps, one in eight of us. The other 87.5% simply want to live their lives in peace and quiet. They include many who make the time and effort to help those in trouble or distress. They are – for the vast majority of us – our neighbors. We go to fish-fries with them, to Sabres games, to school and college, to the dozens of jobs we engage in.

I am writing this while listening to the live-stream of an extraordinary effusion from Donald Trump. It is coming from his Berlin rally. Berlin, Maryland.

Check it out:

It is, of its kind, a masterpiece. Trump is much more entertaining than Hitler. He is also, thank whatever you thank, much less crazy. He isn’t seeking power – mostly just attention, and instant gratification.

I have no doubt that most of Trump’s supporters are as decent as most of Bernie’s. I watched the TV streaming of the people waiting to get into The Donald’s rally on the April 18, and of the protesters – there was very little basic difference between them.

And there is reason to think that most of my fellow-taxpayers will come together on November 8 to vote for the more experienced of the two anti-establishment candidates. In fact I would bet on it, if I were a betting man.


Peter Smith worked in US higher education from 1965 to 1997 – at UC Santa Cruz, Dartmouth and Columbia. For reasons he cannot fathom he remains a loyal subject of HMQ, but he has paid a lot of taxes over here, and may change his mind about citizenship if Betty dies before he does – which seems increasingly unlikely.  He lives in Buffalo NY.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *