By Nikhil Kumar:
It has become a trend these days to bash Donald Trump. Well, he has become the President-elect of the United States so he must have done something right, don’t you think? Many say, “Well, Hillary got more votes than Trump.” Of course, she did. Alas, she isn’t the President-elect. And we have to live with it.
So, why did it happen? A reality TV celebrity with a history of sexist and racist thinking who has had to face bankruptcy many times – how did he become President? And it is happening not only in the US. In July, we had Brexit in the UK. Nationalist right wing political parties are on the rise all over the world – Switzerland, Romania, Poland, Hungary, Greece, France, Denmark, Austria and Germany. The centrist and the centre-left have lost a lot of political ground in countries around the world. So, how did we get here?
The ‘we’ has become a hypothetical pronoun in communities. A person who doesn’t agree with our views is labelled and shamed. We do not listen and talk to the ‘racists’ because it is a social stigma – how could you be seen with a racist? And to say that they do not want to talk is another example of how comfortable we are with our assumptions.
Most liberals refuse to label terrorism as being ‘radical Islam’ for example. And rightly so. But why do we not refuse to label the Trump voters or the Brexiteers? How can we label tens of millions of people around the world? How can we call them a ‘basket of deplorables’?
People with leftist liberal thinking have become victims of self-righteousness. We think that we are right and do not care if the person in front of us doesn’t agree. Why? Well, aren’t they just racists, or sexists, or right wing maniacs? And the other person thinks correspondingly about us too. And that leaves hardly any room to appreciate the context behind the thinking. We have become victims to a mindset of disposition.
With a war in the Middle-East that does not see any foreseeable end, refugees are flowing into communities and societies that had never had touch with a different culture than their own? And they constantly receive news about the vagaries of Islam and Muslims. How then do we expect them to be willing hosts? It is, but human, to resist cultural change, especially one that you find threatening, even if wrongly so.
All this leaves a lot of people confused. There is hardly any initiative for one to talk to the other. The liberals ride on the righteous high horse of helping refugees and terming others racist while a sense of confusion brims in the minds of a lot many. This void is very uneasy and dangerous. And then, a few politicians come along promising to ban the refugees. They have a simple explanation for all the confusions. And that is – these people are ‘bad’ people and bring their ‘bad’ culture with them. So, a person left unattended by the liberals because he had different views, suddenly has been appealed to by emotionally charged rhetoric that assuages their confusions. And now liberals are even more loathe to the idea of conversation.
Social media and blogs have turned this problem even more irreconcilable. The filtering of news sources by attending only to those that conform to our own beliefs have left us in a bubble thinking where we meet people who mostly agree with us. We are completely out of touch with the other bubble where they have diametrically opposite views. People in both the bubbles know that the other exists but we are much more comfortable with being where we are.
So, I return to the complaint that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a big margin. But is that a good thing? Maybe it is a consolation for her supporters but I don’t think it is a positive sign in the long run. It just shows that Clinton bubbles was largely concentrated in some specific areas where she won heavily while the Trump bubbles were widespread.
Look at the Brexit voting data:
Most of the ‘Remain’ bubbles were concentrated in particular areas while the ‘Leave’ bubbles in other areas. And there was very little osmosis in between.
This is not a classic political political divide. It is a much more complex interplay which cannot be understood without a conversation. It is upto liberals to begin that conversation if we wish to reconfigure the political reality that we face now. We cannot afford to leave space for people who appeal to our least common denominator.
“E pluribus unum” – is the motto on the seal of the US. Its meaning has come to suggest that out of many peoples, races, religions, languages, and ancestries has emerged a single people and nation — illustrating the concept of the melting pot. Most modern nations have try to emulate values.
Today that melting pot has fossilised ideas that refuse to transact. Unless that transaction takes place openly, the melting pot will be just a utopian imagery. And we cannot afford that.