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The Dark Side of the Pale Face

Dark Side of the Greens | Anthony Baxter │ United Kingdom, Croatia | 2015 | 59:13 | English
This documentary probes the relationship between developers and local authorities who use golf as a smokescreen behind which to construct enormous luxury resorts with all the attendant deleterious effects on the environment and protests by local residents.


[59:13]

Dark Side of the Greens is the short version, made for television, of Anthony Baxter’s documentary A Dangerous Game which documents real-estate operations associated with the golf courses of the magnate Donald Trump. In the meantime, these projects give rise to considerable opposition from both anonymous local residents and public personalities like the Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin and the environmental activist Robert Kennedy Jr. who agreed to appear in this film denouncing Trump’s harmful practices.

Real-estate developer, heir to billions, celebrity, reality-show star and professional wrestling mogul, Donald Trump is incontrovertibly the US presidential candidate with the least orthodox curriculum vitae of anyone who has so far aspired to occupy the White House, including George W. Bush. Trump presents himself as a cultured person with extraordinary business acumen which, according to the man and his followers, areattributes that equip him to lead the planet’s most powerful country without any need to prove he has such qualities, or to present a political programme, or to have any legal and/or diplomatic knowledge. It is just him and his word, although it does not even seem necessary for him to stick by his word. The idea that a good businessman is automatically a good leader(assimilating institutional functioning into business performance without considering the necessary differences between the two)is widely held in some sectors of the population.

A good part of Trump’s business “success” is fruit of real-estate deals and golf courses. Dark Side of the Greens enquires into two failed Trump ventures in Europe. Trump lands like a latter-day Mr. Marshall in two singular locations of Scotland and Croatia, bringing growth and wealth to the “needy” locals. In Scotland, Trump wants to construct a par-72 course in a fragilenatural landscape of protected dunes and, in Dubrovnik, a World Heritage site, another golf course on a dry limestone crag overlooking the medieval city. Real-estate and tourist development is not necessarily bad in itself. However, business plans may not give enough thought to the “collateral” costs of such projects which give priority to short-term benefits purportedly shared among local beneficiaries as jobs, in the assumption that they have no other employment options. Cases of grandiose projects promising big rewards and then ending up in utter ruin are spreading all over the world, and perhapsnow there are enough experiences of this kind of venture to establish a certain pattern from which lessons may be drawn. Nonetheless, if anything is to be learned, government bodies should not be so servile in collaborating with such schemes, and will need to bear in mind erroneous decisions with detrimental results that have hadlong-lasting effects. Of course, in order for this to be the case, it is essential that the branches of the administration concerned should not be like those in the documentary, which is to say pervaded with high levels of corruption and holding democratic rules in contempt. This contempt for democratic functioning is unmistakeably manifested in their evidentdisdain for public space.For them, public space is a school playground submitted to the law of the bully although, in this case, instead of sandwiches being stolen, walls are being constructed so the bullies can decide who can enter “their” dominion. In a country governed by Trump, there might be somebody who decides who can move along which street, although Trump does not need to win in order for this to happen. Indeed, Business Improvement Districts started to appear in Canada in the mid-1970s. In the streets or neighbourhoods thus named, businesspeople or property owners paid a special tax in order to avail themselves of special services which were superior to those offered by the public administration. Security and cleaning, et cetera ceased to belong to the public domain and became a private concern which, in some cases, led to a certain degree of privatisation of the street or neighbourhood in question. Somehow, this inverts the logic of the shopping mall. Acity street with right of admission and where only businesses exist is re-created to be used as if it were part of a shopping precinct. The point is that Trump is not presenting anything new but rather the most grotesque version we have seen so far of a certain conception of society and politics in which economic success becomes synonymous with good government. Under the guidance of paternalistic leaders, branches of the public administration will take care of our wellbeing, will free us from our responsibilities, and protect us from the dangers stalking us in the form of the foreigner, the stranger and anyone who is different.

Bad Religion summed it up clearly in The Answer (Generator, 1992):

"Long ago, in a dusty village full of hunger, pain and strife, a man came forth with a vision of truth and the way to a better life he was convinced he had the answer and he compelled people to follow along but the hunger never vanished and the man was banished and the village dried up and died."

However, there are reasons for not succumbing to pessimism. We will always have Inishturk! Fed up with Ireland being singled out by Trump as one of the chief causes of malaise in American industry because of its tax benefits, the inhabitants of this small island launched a campaign welcoming any refugees from the United States in the event of Trump’s winning the elections. The irony was lost on many and, within a few hours, there were thousands of requests for asylum.

Martín Garber, architect.