Trumpxit: The way forward
So here we are. Brexit has split the one model we had which wasn’t about selfish Nationalism. And a man who is probably a narcissist is in the White house with a set of promises to set America and the world with it back with policies more divisive than any after 1945 with all the consequences that entails. And worse could be on its way – The EU is on the way to destruction, quite possibly, if not inevitably. Not to mention the gigantic extended pandemonium if the Middle east and rising issues in Japan, China and India. Its been a hell of a Trump win hangover. And Ireland is not immune to all this.
So I’ve made a decision.
We can choose to bury ourselves in the well of ‘OH DEAR GOD!’ We can vent, and get angry and fall into unbelievable despair at such a set of decisions voters made. I couldn’t blame anybody for feeling that way. Because so do I.
Most articles I have seen simply vent themselves in endless anger and despair at the contradictions and obvious stupidities behind this campaign and its ultimate outcome, emblem of the rising nationalism which is stalking our world. For many, it seems like up is down and black is white.
But I’m afraid I’m going to have to go a different route with this one. Now I’m going to make no friends with this article. But sadly these things must be said. There have been reasons why we have failed to curb the slow return to Nationalism we are all seeing.
Those who opposed the Nationalists (myself included) took the easy way out. We shamed people for supporting Trump. And to a lesser extent, Brexit. Taking the lazy, easy way of sarcasm, parody and satire, rather than convincing or at least engaging people both emotionally and intellectually that their way was the best way for humanity, or at least not some polar opposite which had to be opposed at all costs. However these tactics don’t work – shaming somebody does not work, no matter how worthy we may feel they are of this. Niccolo Machiavelli argued that robbing a person of their honour was one route toward rebellion.
Let me explain. In a way, the tactics of Trump/Radical Islamists/Brexiteers and more liberal or centrist groups in our society share one thing: They vent their anger more and more in a downward circle of mutual animosities and personal grudges increased to violent proportions. Rather than truly explaining their arguments, both sides have occupied such a different mental world that the same exact statements can mean something completely different to two separate people.
Now none of this is to ignore the very real attempts that have been made by the centre-left to be more inclusive. But they’re not getting their message across.
We have to examine a whole new set of soundbytes. A vastly more inclusive rhetoric.
Obviously I can smugly say that the showmanship, soundbytes, and nonsense behind every four-year circus known as an election is a problem. In an election where the best weapon people could think of with Trump was to dredge up a 12-year-old video of him having a personal conversation (however onerous), doesn’t this tell us that the political system itself has some problems? Is the spectre of Bob Geldof and Nigel Farage battering each other with loudspeakers on the Thames not telling us that standards have slipped?
The sheer bipolar ignorance of Trump’s electorate to the basic human impact (ranging from trauma to long-term PTSD ) of slut-shaming or banning Gay marriage to the basic impact his anti-global warming, pro-oil policies will have boils my blood. Every time I’ve heard ISIS justify sex slavery, (I’m not comparing the two, but they are part of the same world trend) every time I’ve heard Trump talk about ‘Nasty women,’ every time I’ve heard Farage going on about ‘breaking points’ whilst ignoring the fact that Britain’s elites and employers are the ones who have failed the British public and are merely using divide-and-rule tactics reminiscent of the Union and the Raj– not immigrants, or whatever else, and every time the older generation use the ‘challenging the establishment’ language of the 1960s for a return to the 1930s over the futures of their children makes me seethe with rage. But unfortunately, we don’t have a choice. We have to go back into the reasons behind which we hold these ideals – we have to Re-explain why LGBT marriage, Women’s rights and etc. is a pro for society, as frustrating as this is. Because we really don’t have a choice.
Delivering a message badly, however correct the message is, is still not a very efficient persuasive mechanism. On an emotional level, few white men will be convinced by venting arguments like ‘Trumps a scumbag woman hater and anyone who supports him represents a hard core of white males who have been forced to share power for once in their relatively privileged lives.’ These arguments may well have a good deal of merit to them. But they are obviously not convincing the voters. And they tend to lump people into one group, which is not always fair. People’s specific concerns about issues ranging from women’s rights to racial integration etc. are usually on a spectrum, with views often quite diverse from issue to issue. just because people might support one or two aspects of Trump’s policies does not mean they supported them all. Yet as a general rule, many of the forces who were behind Hillary ranging used responsive language which only contributed to this bipolarity. Saying someone is ‘Islamophobic’ with one breath then saying ‘lets come together’ without systematically dealing with people’s underlying grievances -many of which may only really be one or two issues, but not ‘against’ women’s rights or the Islamic faith per se – is not going to convince anybody.
Bear in mind that quite a few women – a majority of white women – and at least some Latinos voted for Trump, despite the shaming tactics used by the Democrats. Not everybody shares the same vision of the sexes or of racial integration Hillary Clinton does. Many simply used the vaunted guerilla voting tactics.
I remember reading one article in the leadup to the election about the men who have been ‘left behind.’ Males who see themselves as Alphas (no matter how problematic the term/concept is) are not going to be convinced by patronising arguments that put them in such a corner. Many of the less educated will vote or take action more as a subconsciously inspired ‘Fuck the left’ protest rather than anything systematically or objectively thought out. Most don’t have time to do anything else.
As with Trump, basic questions like ‘Well, shouldn’t men or whatever group have a forum where they can discuss their innermost thoughts without being judged for it?’ have not really been answered. I want to emphasise this is not a Trojan horse for all those attitudes which can often be associated with and may well lead to any number of crimes against women including rape, domestic violence and wider problems like job discrimination, etc. But political and social-sexual realities are what they are. Getting the attitudes out in the open and slowly working through Which ones and Why they are destructive is probably going to be a hell of a lot more helpful than simply lambasting random individuals every time they come out with something. Obviously, education can slowly work to change the truly harmful attitudes, but shaming people who hold on to specific attitudes (rather than actions) helps nobody and contributes nothing except a feedback loop of more anger and frustration.
The pro-Europe campaign was lethargic at best, and used the same negative tactics the other side used. But they offered little hope and a lot of responsive, retrogressive thinking rather than anything inspirational-we all know this of course. They fought with a pig, got dirty and lost. They often dismissed their concerns as ‘Racist’ as ‘Economic madness,’ etc. So the other side, naturally, responded by hanging on even closer to their views, however unreasonable they sometimes were. The liberals so often took the lazy, easy way out rather than sitting down and talking with them or speaking to their specific concerns quietly and calmly.
And the harsh reality is this: not all right-wingers concerns (gulp!) are irrelevant or intellectually unsupportable. Some – probably most – may well be. Some, possibly most are manufactured through the media, rumour food-chains and simple regurgitated prejudice which takes on new forms, or they are disproportional, taken (often wildly) out of context, or they are a response to changing social circumstances, or perceived changes. But ignoring them, or using sarcasm, however good it may feel for one audience, rarely wins anybody in the other audience over. It causes more polarisation.
Democracy is not about one group consistently outvoting another group and then expecting them and their concerns to conveniently just go away. As lecturing as this sounds, it ideally should lead to a consensus being built as time goes by. But increasingly, we see elections and referendums about victory or defeat.
To make things worse, so many of the issues which people argue about are very poorly understood. And yes, I include myself in that category. Coupled with that, as I’ve said, there were many people who were concerned with specific issues rather than necessarily being concerned with everything to do with that issue.
Take the Cologne attacks, which have been a banner for many Right-wingers about Muslim populations entering Europe: ‘Look what they’re doing to our women! It’s the tanned/Black man at it again with his insatiable primal lusts! (c. 1885 Victorian racism, thankyou!)’ Immediately this was responded with by cries of ‘Islamophobia!’ while Al Jazeera spent more time talking about the potential impact on refugees than anything else. Far fewer people on either side cared about the victims of these assaults. Few people actually cared about engaging with the other sides concerns in a balanced, academic or intellectual way. Nobody wanted to take criticism maturely, because it would damage their sense of identity. And everybody was instantly polarised, or seen to be on polar opposites of this debate if they showed any concern as to these attacks, whether they noted the effects on the victims or the potential backwash on Migrants. So what I’m about to say is not about taking one side or another. Its about getting to some establishable facts and coming up with some proactive solution to a specific issue which can justifiably be seen as a problem but shouldn’t be seen as a extendable to a whole population or as an excuse for bigotry.
Is there serious problems with women being groped/molested in all societies? Yes. Does it seem to be an especial problem in Islamic societies? Possibly – statistics appear to indicate it is pretty prevalent in Egypt, and everything I saw when I visited there indicated the same thing. And I must say everything I’ve researched on Al Azhar, or Islamists ranging from Zakir Naik to Yusuf al Qaradawi (I call him Yusuf Q) as well as many media forms in Egypt and elsewhere indicates a pretty permissive environment where many religious and social institutions look the other way. (Not ignoring obvious culturally similar bodies and attitudes in the West.) But is there an actual causal link between that and what happened on New Years night? We’ve all heard of the rape/grope game ‘Taharrush’ by now, but nobody seemed bothered examining those underlying issues or devising systematic social stats on how Muslim men – Economic immigrants or refugees, the latter of which were not mostly responsible for Cologne – integrate into western cultures and to what extent they respect local sexual norms. People are throwing polarising accusations around, but with not a lot of data to back up either sides arguments, leaving the public with a mass of dimly understood social trends in a time of upheaval or at least perceived upheaval, where tough decisions need to be made. The dark night of lack of information is where negativity and ultimately violence thrives. Any findings, no matter how onerous, would not convince me we should shut our doors forever to Muslim immigration and, separately, refugees. It might not change people’s stance either. But they might at least lead to a more nuanced discussion where everybodies concerns are discussed and hopefully dealt with. (Incidently, I think this combined with Trump should be a wakeup call to the attitudes which underly rape and grope cultures wherever they come from – and we can’t single any group out on this one. Obviously the vaunted Educational programmes with basics like respect and consent can help – but not ones which cause males to feel ashamed about their sexuality or in other cases their culture either.)
Another way of discussing this could be to admit that certain cultures probably do have proportionally worse problems than others (the data doesn’t necessarily back this up on this matter so far, just stating it as one possibility). For instance, one doesn’t need Einsteinian insights to realise that Ireland has a serious problem with alcoholism. As a man who likes a good pint myself (serious weakness for the wheat beers here) I think this is something I can admit to as a special cultural problem we have. So perhaps Islamophobia or groping are special cultural problems here as well. Those issues of course cannot be hijacked by one side or another to demonise anybody.
I personally think that analysing the emotional bonds, the very core of people’s feeling responses to some arguments is one way of doing this. Obviously Hillary’s advisors will have examined this in great detail. But its also clear they failed. Hillary, the ‘Stay’ campaign, etc, failed to connect with voters. Secularists and other centrists (be they Islamists or no) have evidently failed to stop violence breaking out – granted, a different set of circumstances, but I don’t think they were that different. Both Hillary and the Middle Eastern secularists (legacy of revolutions long past relevance) were using clearly outdated methods which failed to connect with the wider populace.
Emotion, empathy, and above all patience is key. Coupled with a relentless search for the facts as backed up by systematic, balanced research. Let’s hope that this current wave of 1930s-style nationalism, of Salafism, of basic human Otherism subsides. And whether it does or does not. Lets learn the right lessons from this debacle – before something is done we cannot fix.