Is Trump the master builder who on reaching the top of his highest tower, loses his footing and crashes to his death? Dr Kim Sawyer compares his script with Ibsen's.
LOOKING FORWARD, rather than back, we can anticipate his legacy. There will be thousands of pages of analysis, years of moderated and unmoderated debate and possibly a century of reflection.
No one who has interceded as he has interceded can expect anything less. The script will be limitless, but the script has been written before.
In the Master Builder, Ibsen wrote of the builder who built one tower too many; the builder who upon reaching the top of his highest tower lost his footing and crashed to his death.
The fortune the builder had amassed and the misfortune he had imposed on others was annulled by his fall. His ledger was balanced.
The Master Builder by Henrik Ibsen starring Leo Mckern in the leading role recorded by me in 1988 BBC Television.
Of course, he was never a master builder. He built eponymous towers, but didn’t build them. He leveraged them. He was in debt to everyone: to his father, to his bankers, to those who bore his name and those who assumed his name; to those he vilified and those who voted for him. And now he is in debt to a party that adopted him and a nation that tolerated him. He is a man of leverage who has leveraged too much.
In his final fall from a grace that should not have been granted, he has showed us something. He has showed us the cost of the indifference of lawmakers who should have renounced him long ago. He has showed us the refinement of measured discourse over the unmeasured discourse of the Tweet in the middle of the night. He has showed us the power of those who reveal what has to be revealed. He has showed us the sublimity of compassion over the discord of hate.
Through the anti of who he is, we see who we need to be.
On a winter’s evening in 1860 at the Cooper Union building in New York, Abraham Lincoln began a speech which pre-ordained his presidency.
Lincoln’s Right Makes Might speech on that February night was summed up by his words:
“Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”
The speech is not as famous as his address at Gettysburg, but it resonates more when the contest between right and might is at its most intense. And that seems to be now, for there is a right to be done.
From a distance, the Union has never looked more divided; across multiple fractures of race, beliefs and rights. At its epicentre is the Master Builder in his tower.
At Gettysburg, Lincoln recognized that the lives of all who had fought there mattered. Seven score and thirteen years later, he would want their sacrifices to be honoured through the work that is yet to be done. He would want government of the people, by the people, for the people to trump that which must be trumped. He would want the nation, under God, not to succumb to the Master Builder.
Dr Kim Sawyer is a Senior Fellow in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne, Australia. Kim Sawyer is a Senior Fellow in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies. His principal research interests are in whistleblowing, regulation, finance and philosophy.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
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