So… I could go on.
It’s a new grammatical unconvention isn’t it, to start a sentence with so. Your purist grammarian would be all up in arms about it, but I reckon, after a week that delivered the world the Donald as President-Elect for the not-so United States of America on a harried shallow in breath, and released Leonard Cohen on the exhale, it will stand.
On June 24th 2016 my brain had to do some heavy cognitive lifting, and quick, to rearrange some neural networks so all this shifting had a place to go. The world as I thought I knew it had altered radically. In my mind, Britain was a beacon of multiculturalism and tolerance, compassion and solidarity with people in need. I was wrong. Britain had ignored the needs of too many citizens outside the metropoleis for too long. Beyond our mixed and multicultural cities, people felt ignored, left behind, slighted even. Despite efforts (I will not write best) the political party (Labour) that purported to represent their views was not just part of the disconnect, it had driven some of it along over the years.
The internet, the media: you find the same disconnect between various realities, but also increased identification and connection with people like you. These days, if you hold a view, it is not hard to find someone, somewhere who will reinforce it. If you should happen upon someone or something that might challenge your feelings about how your part of the world is going along, the easiest thing to do is simply click away. Quickly. Thus we have the world divided, as was described this week into red feed / blue feed. Thus we have a world where an appeal to the facts of the matter simply bounce off a set of existing feelings and beliefs like hailstones on a tin roof. We have, my friends, arrived at the Post-Truth staging post.
So Trump. So Trump can say whatever he likes; whatever he likes about African Americans, whatever he likes about women, whatever he likes about Mexicans, whatever he likes about Hillary Clinton, or Obama. He can say whatever hateful things he likes because the people who voted for him say* they aren’t motivated by any of those things – they are interested in his main, simplistic, nostalgic and essentially undeliverable election slogan:
MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN
It’s the same ploy the Brexiteers used in Britain to good effect:
TAKING BACK CONTROL
Both campaigns were notable for their policy vacuum, and real-world strategies to deliver meaningless soundbytes (beyond the immediate appeal to the emotions). Sufficient numbers of both British and US electorates liked not just the sound of the slogans, but the feel of them too. The overt racism, sexism, divisiveness? Well, that just wasn’t the line in the sand those of us who study history and have hope for the future of the planet and humankind hoped it would have been.
The hurt this experience engenders in the ‘losing’ side has been likened to a bereavement. The population that voted to Remain, or for Hillary, instead wake up to a country that is not what they thought, or hoped it was. First we find someone to blame: those who voted for Trump or to Leave, those who did not vote at all. We look at the numbers. Hillary won on the popular vote; Brexit was not voted for by the majority of the nations that make up the United Kingdom. Those facts comfort somewhat yet highlight that the system is messy, inconclusive. In the UK, the question was wrong. In the US, the candidate was wrong, the electoral college is an anachronism. Those on the ‘losing’ side are told not to frustrate the will of the people. Those in power like to quote that a lot. We end up in the ridiculous situation where the will of a minority of the people is treated like holy writ and the law of the land is berated for being as it is, not as this group of people want to be.
With victory in the back pocket of the rich (posturing to care about the poor) the facts of the matter, the rule of law, the mechanics of the thing are mere inconvenience. Post-truth, post-fact, we and they simply change the channel.
I fear backwards. I hope I am wrong.
I hope that these swings to the right, that seem destined to continue to play out across Europe in the coming year, are simply the sting in the tail of the death throes of the 20th century. That they are the last chance saloon of angry white people who whilst still in the majority feel they are not, and also feel that their rights are somehow more than their fellow beings due to accidents of birth.
The alternative is ugly and dangerous and it’s already here.
*I’m afraid I don’t believe them