Changing Winds: a Piece on Populism

Donald Trump is now President of the United States of America.

Which means things have reached peak absurdity in our world. how someone who has said such brazenly dumb and stupid things (“It’s freezing and snowing in New York – we need global warming!” – prime example) on the world stage was elected is something people will discuss for years to come.

But his rise, the support for UKIP, the rise of other right wing populists, is a reaction to the failure of a socially progressive, economically right leaning system that has existed for thirty odd years.

Rather than their success, it is the previous establishment’s overall failure in recent times that has enabled these people. What also enables them is being labelled constantly as racist, fascist nazis by those both in the establishment and those who would normally be protesting the establishment.

Let me put my cards on the table – I lean left. That doesn’t mean I want communist flags and the state to pay my way. Nor do I believe in stripping every tank and gun down and replacing bullets with daffodils (though the image of such a war would be fabulous). I just want a fair and just society, where we can freely criticise each other and not worry about a bullet in the head for our troubles.

Which, for the most part, we’ve kind of had for a very long time.  I certainly grew up in a place where I could pursue my ambitions, and I’ve had a pretty decent life out of it. I’ve also had an incredible family and support over the years of which I can never repay, so I’ve had it luckier than some.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to be silent on matters though. I’ve become concerned with the direction both the UK and the US is taking, as I’ve done the incredibly popular and noteworthy thing of reading up on politics and economics occasionally. Then the even more popular act of discussing and writing about them (which is why this blog averages around thirty views. At best.)

In recent times, those on the left have become distracted from the job of actually opposing many things governments and businesses have been getting up to. They’ve been a bit too busy chasing every damn civil right and social challenge possible.

They’ve also won quite a lot of progressive battles – gay rights being a major step forward in recent times. But the fact that people now have to guard safe spaces and the apparently four million genders that now suddenly exist is a bit perplexing, not to mention off putting to anyone who isn’t, you know, weird. And most people don’t identify as weird.

Not that that is a bad thing, mind. It’s just split the priorities of an already widespread and hard to co-ordinate political bunch, and prevented any concerted effort to actually shift debate on matters on actual issues that matter for society as a whole.

What issues? Well, economic ones, primarily. Ones that impact people’s live directly, that aren’t covered by improved rights for minorities (disclaimer – more rights are great. Fantastic. So don’t go jumping down my damn throat for discussing the situation – I want everyone on the same damn footing rights wise, so think before you slander.)

The people who walked out and voted for Leave in the UK, and people who rejected Hillary Clinton, are the people who feel left behind. An economic system has been captured by the people who celebrated globalisation and threw out these people. Meanwhile, no one on the left, which has traditionally been the side that goes with the majority of people, have been fighting fires for specific groups – the disabled, the weak, the impoverished.

But they haven’t been fighting for a side that they consider unnecessary – the working class western peoples whose lives have been massively disrupted by political and economic forces for almost forty years. And those are the people who have no time any more for the establishment, and worse, no time for people who would have traditionally stood alongside them.

And those people have responded with slander and focusing further on minorities without addressing the concerns of the silent majority that makes up our nation and others.

Which is a bastard controversial thing to say, but it’s worth saying: the minority the left has neglected is the one it feels has the most privilege – the white working class. And the white working class are having none of it any more, having watched its economic foundations disappear within a generation. The left has no answer to this, or the causes of this, but they have an immediate response to any allegations of racism or prejudice.

To anyone from this background, being labelled as this for expressing concerns regarding immigration is going to push people to extremes.

Now whether this is wise is another matter. But that palpable anger is in the air, and absolutely no one – especially the likes of Jeremy Corbyn (who I initially had sympathy and hopes for but now realise he’s not fit for purpose) – is addressing their concerns in a progressive manner.

Actually, their concerns are being pushed and twisted into a right wing populism that could invite disaster into everyone’s lives – and repeal the advances in socially progressive ideas that have taken place. The current establishment senses the tide turning and is trying to ride it, regardless of the consequences. Their desire to cling to power may end up inviting disaster, which then opens the door to the real extremists that exist on the sidelines.

Liberal is being treated as a curse word by these sorts. Immigration is a concern due to outsourcing and the economic strain felt across the board. The threat of terrorism and our seemingly inept performance is a problem. The apparent inability for the West to challenge Putin and to take on China economically is causing friction. The Syrian War and its almost endless twists and turns makes the West seem unable to fight effectively any more.

This comes to a head with the refugee crisis. Combine a terrorist force that is comprised of middle eastern men with religious backgrounds, with refugees from middle eastern countries with religious backgrounds, and you automatically create tension. And simply insulting those expressing concerns further fuels the problem – not least when actual members in the refugee group cause trouble for everyone else, both inside the refugee areas and outside.

And that’s ignoring the state of modern business. The financier in the bank is a bigger player than the industrialist with the factory. Stock markets can decide the fate of national currencies, corporate lifespans and, by effect, their workers. That they do so on speculation and feeling is a rather worrying thing to realise. How terrifying to know your livelihood could be gone in hours if a stock broker whispered the wrong thing to the wrong people and destroyed an organisation’s wealth.

Small businesses cannot afford the accountants that keep taxes they spend out of government hands, but large businesses can and do, publicly and without consequence. Tax saved is money not being spent, money not being spent means an economy that shrinks. No money being spent means no goods being bought, businesses shrinking and less money to around.

Hoarding is a destructive economic act, and rent seeking – acts to create money from nothing but existence – is dominating where manufacturing and production used to reside. There’s a greater return for the investor see, regardless of the wider impact. An impact that could actually hurt the investor in the long run (example – property).

Let’s not forget the role of technology in modern work – robotics and automation reducing work forces as economies shrink and populations increase. Full Time Employee savings are a target for many organisations to increase profit – means to reduce working numbers for short term gains in profit – even though this is actively taking money out of economies.

OK that was a lot of stuff. And many of what has been said above is not just nonsense from my own head – many leading economists express these concerns, and many politicians publicly air them (even if they do nothing to fight them.) The situation we have is the product and failure of government and business over a prolonged period of time.

And people like Trump and Farage are but populists, riding a wave of resentment and opening the door to “Say it like it really is!”. People like this relate to the forgotten precisely because they air their concerns. The trouble is they not only air them but actively fan the flames, and the truth becomes buried.

And truth is the casualty in all this. Extreme opinions are laid bare on the world stage, news is labelled as fake or otherwise, a situation created precisely because of the media to want to twist stories for political gain.

It’s best to consider today as a “reap what you sow” moment for the ruling elite. They’re watching their world crumble slowly, as the foundations they’ve laid are starting to be exposed. The problem is, the palpable anger and frustration of forgotten people in our nations is going to be directed by the exact people they are actually against.

Trump is not a man of the working people, he’s a glorified landlord in New York with a string of failed enterprises. Farage was a former banker in the City of London, which the rest of the UK is starting to glare at. UKIP and the Republican Party don’t stand for the rights of a steel worker nor do they believe in restoring old working class rust belt/coal town areas into prosperity. They’re but populists, who actually represent extreme business interests and ideologies that would further destroy any mechanism that would attempt to rebuild those areas.

They’re as corrupt, if not more corrupt, than those already in power we seem to disregard so easily. The only reason they have support is that they stand up, point at the exploding brown man in the corner and say “SEE ITS THEM THE FUCKERS, BLAME THEM andvoterepublicansowecanstripservicesandtaxmoneyawayfromyouinsecret” (they need a better slogan).

The absurd irony then, that a supposedly ultra nationalistic US president is secretly in cahoots with the Russians.

The Russians – the U.S.’s former cold war enemy and ideological opponent for 45 years.

If there’s even a hint of truth to the allegations, then the universe has a delightful sense of humour.

All these concerns we have, are all being twisted into something foreign by these people. The mistake we are going to make, which I cannot see us avoiding, is further slipping into fear and division. And the worst thing is, the people and parties that are supposed to be “progressive” are too busy fighting people over gender rights no one gives a fuck about, while jobs and positions and wealth keep disappearing for those on the bottom, regardless of race, creed or hair colour.

So the Right is going to win. Mostly because those who claim to be fighting for equal rights do so in university campuses increasingly removed from the rusting factories and emptying offices that our crumbling economy is facing, and belligerently tweeting at dissent to do so. If that is the level of debate we have, we’re fucked.

If we choose our political leaders wrongly in the next decade, the west will fall behind significantly. Not in terms of an overabundance of cis/mega/ultra gender rights, not in terms of being bombed by nutters from a desert hellscape, and not from some BRITAIN FIRST asshat on the street punching a nun by accident.

No, it will be because our core issues will be buried under all that noise and our institutions will fail to address them, in order to appear “tough” for voters.

And what are the core issues?

The world is changing. Climate change, automation, fuel and resources, economics. All of it is changing. However, mankind is very good at adapting as a whole. Are we in the west able to do so these days?

Or are we going to debate it on CNN while another flag wielding mouthpiece slanders a foreigner and gets cheered for it? Because there are bigger fish to fry than some refugee who’s last possessions are an iPhone and a Quran.

Maybe it’s the fucker in the suit defunding everything and given the proceeds to other fuckers in suits. They then give it to different people in different suits who live in the desert with oil in it, who then give it to nutters who blow up themselves up and others, leaving refugees who’s last possessions are an iPhone and a Quran.

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