It’s been a funny year or so. And I don’t mean that it’s been hilarious. I stopped laughing ages ago.
We’ve seen a huge polarisation of citizens across several countries as they try and get to grips with the state of the world and their place in it. And the thing that’s driving this is an increase in people who identify with a need to crack down on immigration, and terrorism, and unemployment caused by globalisation, and generally People from Elsewhere, be they Syrian refugees or elected representatives of the European Parliament.
All across the world there are perfectly ordinary people who are siding with, let’s face it, right-wing nut-jobs who are proposing (and in the Orange Baboon’s case, enacting) ludicrous policies that are going to hurt individuals, societies and countries with very little likelihood of gaining anything positive except increased wealth and influence for the rich and powerful. It’s like watching the world slowly slip back to the Edwardian era with increasing levels of wealth inequality and homelessness, and decreasing social mobility and affordable homes. Patriotism and nationalism is surging, at the expense of interest in mutual cooperation. But this time no-one’s saying “It’ll all be over by Christmas…”
Why are ordinary people turning to the right (and by ‘right’ I mean the social side of the political spectrum, not the economic; don’t forget that the Nazis were ‘National Socialists’, not a bunch of free-marketeers with a penchant for jackboots and guns) when they are unlikely to benefit in the long run?
It boils down to Fear. If you are afraid of losing your job, of losing your identity, or losing your life you kick out and try to stop the Bad Things from happening. The right-wing media push the Fear button over and over and over again. And then the right-wing politicians offer you Hope. The only way to defeat the Bad Things, to protect yourself, your family, your country, is to vote for Hope, for Change, for more money for the health service, for someone new to drain the swamp, to make the country great again, to get our sovereignty back. Are you Angry and Afraid?
If you respond to those emotions, that’s how it plays out. You become the patsy to the forces who want the power to do whatever they want, apparently in your name. Hitler was quite good at it: in 1930 the Nazis received 6.3 million democratic votes. In 1932 he increased that to 13.7 million. Scared people like strong leaders, even if they are psychopaths or idiots. The Nazis were also rather good at lying to the public to make them afraid – and to point to handy scapegoats. There is overwhelming evidence that blatant lies have been told by the Brexit campaigners (written on the side of a bus) and the Trump administration (take your pick, it’s like an Aladdin’s cave of bullshit and bollocks). It’s the immigrants; the foreigners; the Chinese; the Muslims; the EU; the liberal elite.
I’ve heard this term sloshing around for the last year or so and tried to figure out what they mean by this. It appears to boil down to people who are not multi-millionaires (that would be the real elite, the ones who pull strings behind the scenes) but who are in positions of influence (usually elected) who are not afraid of the bogeyman.
They are not manipulated by Fear because they tend to have logic and reason on their side. Unfortunately, logic and reason are often quite dull and complicated. Flag-waving patriotism is far easier to understand, usually has some great music to get your blood pumping and there may be F-18s or Spitfires and other stirring elements of glossy bravado. And the Fear keeps on being pushed.
So what about the ordinary people who aren’t part of the so-called liberal elite? The people who desperately want to Remain in the EU, who find Trump the most appalling monster ever unleashed into the White House?
They reject fear and embrace compassion. They reject nationalism and seek cooperation. I may be an atheist but one thing that all major religions have in common is the message to treat others decently and I am in total agreement with that. In other words, Be Nice.
The ironic thing is that the people who were not particularly afraid of the world order in 2015 are now shitting themselves about the future because the Fear-mongers have control. The right-wing elites still push the Fear buttons and make ever bolder claims of a bright future (it probably will be for them). It’ll all end in tears. Or nuclear war.
Ultimately, my message is this: if you find that you’re unsure of who to believe and trust just ask yourself “do I want to be Afraid or do I want to be Nice?”
Fear is easy. Nice takes guts.