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The week that was: ‘the measure of a man is what he does with power’ ǀ View

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Thanks for joining us as we bring you our weekly round-up of the hot button topics on View that have had you talking this week. With discussions around Donald Trump’s potential abuse of presidential powers to the erosion of democratic values in other parts of the world taking centre stage, we aim to give you a flavour of the opinions that have driven debate across Europe and beyond over the last seven days.

Throughout the ages, the course of human history has been charted by the hand that has wielded the most power. Intoxicating and all-consuming to those that have it, power can be a force for good but all too often, it is used for to the enrichment of an elite. If you can influence someone in power, however, all the better for you and your ilk. Power and influence are, after all, the opposite sides of the same coin.

Politics is the struggle to attain power, something that plays out not only in parliament buildings around the world but in offices and even our private lives. Having it means that you have the ability to influence.

Political influence is more irreverent of borders than it has ever been. Following in the wake of his first piece for View, Dr Theodore Karasik again broached the subject this week of the renewed sphere of Russian influence in the Balkans. In a trial that is set to rock Croatia and sour relations between the latter and Hungary, the stakes could not be higher for the EU and its future energy independence, Karasik writes, as a former prime minister and businessman face scrutiny for their supposed Kremlin links.

In most democracies, power is exercised through winning elections which makes them targets for those who would subvert the due process of free and fair votes to gain influence. This menace currently has its gaze trained on Africa’s most successful democracy, Nigeria. Contributors Udo Jude Ilo and Bram Dijkstra address the fears of possible attempts to manipulate the presidential election following a last minute delay in the country going to the polls. What’s more concerning, they write, is that the EU does not consider upholding democratic values in Nigeria as a high priority.

These same values have been embattled for some time now, particularly in the nation considered the cradle of democracy and freedom – the United States. Investigations into outside political interference in the 2016 presidential election are still ongoing, which serve to fuel the desire for a potential change of leadership in the White House among a majority of Americans. One frontrunner for that position is a veteran of this particular political battle. Bernie Sanders took up the progressive mantle in 2016 but in 2020, is he likely to be overshadowed in a crowded, diverse field of Democratic candidates? Zac Petkanas weighs up his chances.

Whoever wins the nomination to be the Democrats’ candidate for president in 2020, they will face a rattled and harangued challenger in the incumbent White House occupant. Donald Trump continues to limp from one disaster to another, namely the furore surrounding his declaration of a national emergency. This last ditch attempt to fund the much-discussed and long promised border wall along the frontier with Mexico could well be his undoing, according to contributor Michael Conway. Having been a legal counsel in the impeachment hearings for President Richard Nixon, Conway is somewhat of an expert on presidential impeachment - and the prognosis for Trump does not look promising. “By defying Congress and unconstitutionally allocating federal monies for a project that Congress refused to fund,” he writes, “Trump has abused presidential power just as Judiciary Committee condemned almost 45 years ago.”

Condemnation of Trump’s actions is not universal, but a majority of Americans do not see the president’s behaviour in this regard favourably. As commentator Robert Schlesinger writes this week, the wall – which incidentally Trump said Mexico was going to pay for - is costing US citizens more than just their tax dollars. In a game where the president erodes the limits on his powers, everyone is a loser.

Besides politics, there is perhaps one thing that universally influences our way of thinking and impacts our everyday lives – technology. In many respects, particularly when it comes to smartphones and other electronic devices, this personal intrusion is even more pointed. Delving into the subject this week, journalist Kashmir Hill finds that people are slowly becoming more conscious of their compulsive interactions with these products as so called Big Tech faces increased scrutiny.

Perhaps one of the things that has the most profound influence is art in all its many forms. Cinema in particular has played a powerful role in shaping society and social attitudes since its inception. Blogger Ani Bundel has focused the spotlight this week on director James Cameron – known for pushing the bounds of cinematic artistry – and his new film 'Alita: Battle Angel'. Cameron was instrumental in getting the film made, taking nearly 20 years to come to fruition. “It’s ridiculously ambitious. It’s gorgeous to look at, a technical marvel of a film that mixes digital and human characters into a single frame,” Bundel writes. “It’s just too bad the main plot isn’t worthy of all the innovation.”

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