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Sunday, 6 November 2016

Popullism finds its messenger

 Like rotting food attracts vermin or the playground bully attracts the misfits and disaffected, Donald Trump has emerged on the political landscape of our all mighty neighbours.  And like the playground bully, he doesn’t want to play with the other kids.  He’s not interested in soccer or skipping rope or staring at the screen of a smart phone while trying to kill monsters or shoot stuff.  His interest is in finding a victim and picking on him ruthlessly whether the kid’s got a limp or speaks with a lisp or maybe a bit effeminate while staying well clear of those who could hurt either physically or by reputation.  The more victims he finds, the larger his contingent of followers. 

We all knew kids like this.  The more out of control the school, the greater their power.  If accused of harassing another child, the bully claims self-defence no matter how unlikely the possibility.  And sometimes he gets away with it because, by his very nature, the victim is easier to punish than the victim.  Witness the counselling sessions recommended to victims of bullying like counselling when help them they can lose their self-consciousness over a hair lip or their less than stylish clothing or their short-stature.  Obviously, counselling time would be better spent with the bully although who’s going to tell the bully to get counselling.  Better that he be given esteem building punishment. 

Bullies can take control of a classroom if a teacher is perceived as weak or too nice.  This is a particular problem in junior high school when children are particularly susceptible to the powers or the bully.  It’s a period of self-discovering and a focus on the self and the last thing a person of that age want is to become the focus of negative attention.  So, to avoid this possibility, no one will come to the defence of a teacher who becomes the victim of a bully.  In grade 8, our math teacher was harassed to the point of leaving on what I would presume was stress leave in October.  We went through numerous substitutes until alpaca sweater wearing Mr. Johnson establish control in April. 

In political parlance, the taking of control by the ignorant masses is known as populism.   Michael Kazin, a historian who wrote a book on the subject defines populism as “language whose speakers conceive of the ordinary people as the noble assemblage not bounded narrowly by class [who] view their elite opponents as self-serving and undemocratic.”  Never mind that these elite opponents and those who support them were elected democratically elected because, as Donald Trump has stated, the system is rigged.  It’s like the bully accusing the teacher of picking on him and the administrator, instead of dealing with the kid, blames the teacher for the kid not respecting him. 

If we were to think of the electorate as the ultimate figure of authority and Donald, the bully, his victims would be Muslims, Mexicans, and foreign governments such as China and Mexico.  And like all bullies, he stays well clear of those who can hurt him and are the real source of his followers’ troubles, the large corporations that have outsourced production and refused to pay salaries that would attract anyone but an illegal immigrant.  And we cannot forget, one other group that Donald likes pick on.  Women.  His hate of women must be a personal weakness which could be his undoing.  All bullies have one.  In school, it’s usually a missing father or a poor family background that’s their undoing when they reach the more discriminating later teens. 

Does anyone truly believe that Donald can “make America great again?”  The Mexicans are never
going to pay for the wall.  Like Brexit, renegotiating trade deals will almost certainly lead to considerable economic disadvantage for those who he claims to represent and, if he does force companies to relocate factories to the U.S., the processing will be so automated as to provide very few jobs. 

The working class are looking for someone to protect them from the realities of a post-industrial society.  Ironically, we’ve entered an age when most work will be done by machines that can think for themselves.  Witness your google app if you happen to use one.  The more you use it, the better it knows you.  In the morning, it will let you know how long it will take you to drive to work that day and it will tell you how long it’s going to take to get home.  This is without instruction from you.  Like a good servant, it intuits what you’re going to want to watch, listen to, eat, drink and the list goes on.  Machines are capable of the same in a factory. 

In point of fact, we should be rejoicing but, without work, how do we make a living?  Not a problem Donald wants to tackle.  Instead, like the bully in the classroom, he senses unrest and pursues as an opportunity to take control through a policy of destruction.  Unfortunately, little good can come from this election cycle except an increased awareness of a future we’re unprepared for.