The US election result left a lot of people in shock. I will not attempt to comment on the subject, since I do not consider myself knowledgeable enough. After all, I have never lived in America, so what do I know?
Taking a step back, however, I can discern a depressing trend in what we consider as ‘the western world’. The Brexit affair; the whole Greek catastrophe; the information that today the French president, François Hollande, holds the unenviable record of the lowest approval rating ever (4%); the wish of both Scotland and Catalonia to secede from their countries… I’m sure there are many other examples. Also the fact that the polls are increasingly getting it wrong – their predictions are off. What does this tell us? That people are dissatisfied, resentful, uneasy. This makes them vote in unpredictable ways – against, rather than for, something. But why? The reasons I can perceive are the following:
- Financial anxiety – the middle classes are seeing the steady erosion of the comforts they worked hard for, which they had started taking for granted, and which are now being taken away from them. The distribution of wealth is also becoming increasingly unfair.
- The failure of globalisation and open border policies. This feeds into the fears mentioned above.
- The disappointing performance of coalitions such as the EU, which failed spectacularly to address all the major issues facing it.
- The role of the social media, which rewards extreme behaviors and disdains political correctness, or even good manners.
- The failure of the ‘democratic’ political system. The inherent corruption, nepotism, lobbying etc, combined with the reluctance to expose oneself and one’s family to the viciousness and intrusion of the press and social media, is driving away a lot of capable, intelligent people who could make great leaders. I wonder how many amongst us would encourage their children to go into politics today?
People are angry – they feel the carpet is being pulled from under their feet, that the choice given them at voting time is untenable. The prevailing zeitgeist is one of depression and fear, and loss of optimism and hope for the future. So they vote for change, any change, even risky – and to express their desire to kick the established order in the butt.
And the worst of it is, there is no real reason for having arrived at this impasse. Humanity has never had it so good: health, life expectancy, infant mortality, accessibility of consumer goods and travel and education, leisure time – compared to previous generations, we are blessed.
So, did we get greedy? Complacent? Did we put our trust in people who were way below expectation? Did we allow people with the wrong ethics to manipulate the system and take over?
Whatever it is, it smells like the end of an era. Something new must be built, but I don’t see it happening under the present leadership in most western countries. Meanwhile, we are witnessing the rise of more extreme, fanatical groups.
So as not to finish on a depressing note, I will include a bit of British humor, by Matt, one of my favorite cartoonists (he does a daily cartoon for the Daily Telegraph.)
I can imagine the same little alien landing on America, and telling a bemused local: ‘Do NOT take me to your leader!’ (I’m quite pleased with this – perhaps I should contact Matt and suggest he draws it!)