COMMENT: The supreme stand-outs in the current crop of world leaders are a dazzling bunch of psychopaths.
Trump, Putin, Kim Jong-un, Xi, Duterte, Erdogan, Bashar Al-Assad, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and his delightful son Mohammed bin Salman or MBS for short — which some say now stands for Mr Bone Saw — are all textbook examples of human rights abusers and enviro rapists.
And if that lot aren't enough to terrorise most of the relatively sane citizens of the (so-called) free world, they'll now be joined by Brazil's Great Right Hope, one Jair Bolsonaro.
This is not good news. The truth of this lies in his nickname "Trump of the Tropics".
Bolsonaro has an environmental hit list that is bold and brash. Just when the world needs the "lungs" of the world more than ever, he is planning a paved highway to run right through the Amazon rainforest. And no more will a government commitment to preserving vast areas for indigenous people be tolerated. Bolsonaro has previously said that he will "not give the Indians another inch of land".
He has also promised to scrap the country's Environment Ministry altogether, putting it under the scope of the Agriculture Ministry, which is led by agribusiness. Which, to be fair, is only one step further than our own Environment Ministry overseeing regional councils who many — including me — consider to be the biggest enviro rapists on behalf of dairy farming in New Zealand. But, I digress.
If it's true that Bolsonaro is basically Trump on steroids, as many have described him, then Brazil, a country of 211 million people, is in for one wild ride. He is gleefully pro-gun, pro-torture, has vowed to pull out of the Paris agreement, and is renowned for his overt hostility toward black, gay, indigenous Brazilians and women. Basically, his military background as a paratrooper provides the only meaningful difference between him and Trump. Because, you know, bone spurs.
So, as the Americas continue to fall apart in front of our eyes under far-right fanaticism, we are left with a diminishing sense of relative sanity in this far corner at the bottom of the earth. And because we need the two Americas to work hard on stopping runaway climate change like never before — one being the planet's biggest emitter and the other holding the massive key to any chance of keeping climate change in check at 1.5C.
Because that's the Amazon's job. The rainforest absorbs approximately a quarter of the CO2 absorbed by all the land on earth. Every inch of deforestation matters. And what's the motive for deforestation in Brazil? Cattle ranching. The billions of us have created a massive consumer demand for beef so that clearing land for cattle ranching is lucrative and with Bolsonaro in charge, now unstoppable.
He has ridden in on a wave of chumminess with the beef industry, whose "beef caucus" are a conservative group of lawmakers that control about a third of Congress. They officially endorsed him last week, and with him in place they will again try to loosen everything environmental, and push for a relaxation of slave labour legislation.
I guess with the last four presidents being more leftist, many Brazilians feel they've got nothing to lose. Crime is rampant, and Brazil consistently rates as one of the most unsafe countries to live. And to visit. Look at what happened to Sir Peter Blake.
Bolsonaro says he's going to do something about that. Like Trump, he believes that more guns are the answer to violence. Like Trump, he's clearly a moron — but an elected one. I mean, even if an outside government was eventually found to be involved in his election we all know that nothing will change it, short of a coup. Strange days indeed.
Down here in "kind" New Zealand, we must begin to deeply understand that fascism is once again on the march. We are not immune to its reach, or its consequences. Those consequences are showing themselves every day, in all manner of ways. Just look across the Tasman if you need proof of heartlessness around refugees, and gigantic climate change denial. Aussie PM Scott Morrison could easily be added to my list of world leaders above.
While the Left eats its own, and its precious identity politics swallows the tail, the world continues its far-right meltdown in front of our eyes. The us-vs-them narrative of political tribalism is driving many away from the ideals of the Left. Just try transgressing away from the militant narrative on social media, for example, and the wrath of a thousand extremists will eat your eyeballs through your nose. It's both unpleasant, and blindingly obvious.
There's this thing called the domino effect, and if liberal democracies like ours don't get our divisiveness under control, watch out where the next one falls.