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Professor of Philosophy discusses Marx, Gandhi and the US after the 2016 election

On Thursday, Jan. 16, students and faculty gathered in the Bangor Room in the Memorial Union to hear Doug Allen, a professor of philosophy, discuss his views about Marx, Gandhi and the United States after the 2016 election.

Allen touched on Trump’s ties to Marx and Gandhi and how it affects the UMaine community. Allen noted early on in his speech that educators who work on language acquisition and language use have done studies showing that President Donald Trump’s vocabulary is at a fourth grade level.

“I’m going to tell you what is wrong with the United States today,” Allen proclaimed. “And I’ll tell you how to solve it and it won’t be easy, believe me.”

“Both Marx and Gandhi would be very alarmed by the election of 2016. They would both be alarmed by the campaigns, the elections, the language used, the power relations, the role of money and the role of media,” Allen noted.

The professor of philosophy touched on numerous points such as morality, views of truth and reality, egalitarianism, political parties, free trade agreements and contradictions between Marx, Gandhi and Trump.

In terms of morality, Allen explained that both Marx and Gandhi would be alarmed by Trump’s “blatant immoral character and lack of kindness, empathy, non-violence and truthful living.” Gandhi, known primarily for his philosophy of practices of non-violence, would be appalled at the way Trump has chosen to conduct his political campaign and the effects it has had on the nation.

Gandhi also emphasized unity and the interrelatedness of life, while Marx focused on contextualizing the view of truth and reality as the need to understand the potential for working class unity and the real class-defining differences. It has been said throughout Donald Trump’s presidential campaign that he was going to “Make America Great Again,” using factors such as representing the working class, bringing back more jobs, rejecting capitalist trade agreements and primarily, focusing internally on America first.

Allen feels as though Trump has faced many contradictions between his original campaign promises and his first week in office. Trump believes that the need for change comes from electoral politics and identification from political parties. Marx and Gandhi would disagree with that point, emphasizing equality for all and a decentralized political system. Gandhi and Marx are both comfortable with egalitarianism, while they would feel, as Allen described, that Trump is not. Gandhi warned against giving political parties too much power and authority because they tended to become corrupt.

“Trump is a self-centered opportunist,” Allen explained. “He uses his populace of an anti-establishment working class rhetoric to exploit sexist and racist feelings and actions.”

Allen added that Marx and Gandhi would emphasize the need for a radical paradigm shift if we are “going to confront the challenges and dangers of Trump-ism.”

“If we are serious about moving towards more moral, non-violent egalitarianism and truthful relations, if we are to understand, resist and resolve the dangerous contradictions that define our lives, then we must struggle through a radical paradigm shift of principles, values and policies,” Allen stated.

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