Nothing is happening today, on the 17th November 2016, that has not happened before. The key actors and the communication tools are two of the very few components that distinguish it from the same cycle seen since we possess reliable records that documented the causes of widespread social, political and economic upheaval.
Whether national, regional or global in nature the reach of events does not change the underlying indicator that the dynamics seen in the current climate have normally precipitated large scale conflict and suffering. Suffering endured mostly by those who have the least to gain from it.
Where events such as those that we are now witnessing have previously aligned it has produced a shift in power structures and the way society functions. In some cases it has been the door opener on an extended period of disastrous conflict.
Human history is a wheel and not a line.
Entrenchment along sectarian lines produces prejudice, suspicion and paranoia that leads to a stagnation or ceasing or suppression or even reversal of positive social change and human development.
A Dangerous Consensus
There is a consensus that despite all that has been said during the US Presidential elections that everyone should just wait and see what happens now that Trump is President-Elect and maybe it will not be as bad as it looked like it was going to be.
I would be interested to know from the people who subscribe to that thesis whether they can provide me with examples from history of where persons who preached extreme creeds prior to their election, takeovers or coups mellowed when they acquired real power.
Did Hitler and Stalin pursue their pre-Reichstag and pre-Purge attitudes with less vigour after they consolidated their position? Did Pol Pot calm down a little bit when the Khmer Rouge took Phnom Penh on April 17 1975 and ended the Cambodian civil war? Did Lê Duẩn turn to love and peace when the Viet Cong took Saigon that same year? Did Mao Zedong give the remaining Kuomintang supporters in mainland China a break after two million of their comrades fled to Taiwan in 1949?
These are all rhetorical questions.
The Lesser of Two Evils
The US Presidential election was always a choice between the lesser of two evils.
The unfortunate fact is that a negative charter always ultimately has a negative outcome for all involved – just at different times. Whether the promoters, supporters or opponents – the tragic lesson from history is that everyone suffers.
Appeasement of radicals, facilitating enemies, alienating allies and encouraging the polarisation of social race based attitudes was wrong under the Obama administration. Jingoism, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and misogyny is just as wrong if allowed in a Trump Administration.
The problem with politics, which is allegedly one of its strengths, is that you do not get to vote for the bits you like in a candidate and vote against the bits you don’t like. Politics should have the people voting on issues not for people. People are composite – issues are not.
Liberty versus The Tyranny of the Majority
If I was an American citizen I would probable do exactly what I do as an Irish citizen when it comes to voting – that is not vote at all. I do not vote because I do not believe in the system. And I do not believe that by the act of not exercising my vote that I am failing myself and my ability to change the system. The belief that your vote counts is a fallacy in my opinion.
Voting just encourages politicians. Those people who denounce me for not voting are often the same people who vote in every election and subsequently complain that their party or candidate did not carry out the promise they voted for.
You have all heard it before but I place voting in the same category as the well worn quote that I now paraphrase: “Voting: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Alexis de Tocqueville was an ardent supporter of liberty, he said
“I have a passionate love for liberty, law, and respect for rights. I am neither of the revolutionary party nor of the conservative….Liberty is my foremost passion.”
His view on government reflects his belief in liberty and the need for individuals to be able to act freely while respecting others’ rights. Of centralised government, he wrote that it “excels in preventing, not doing.”
Strong Opinions an Extremist Do Not Always Make
I detest radical Islam not Islam. I detest Sharia Law not Muslims. I do not detest radical Islam and Sharia Law because I am a religious person. I detest it because it goes against liberty.
Liberty to allow a person love who they want to love. Liberty to allow a woman equality of opportunity, education and freedom from oppression. Liberty to allow individuals to exercise their right to lead the lives that they want – within the law – while doing no harm to others. Liberty to speak your mind – man, woman or child – without fear of persecution. Liberty to worship or not worship. Liberty to exercise health choices that are yours to make and not for others to generically legislate on.
By the same token I detest White Supremacists, Race Baiters and Hawkish Military who love the fight for the sake of the fight and not the principle being fought for or defended.
It Is Lazy To Label
I hold opinions that have been described as extremist but they are not. It is possible to have strongly held views without being either Left or Right wing or any wing. It is possible to be a person with opinions that does not have a label to lump you in with a generalised view of people falling into one of a few distinct well defined categories with straight edges neatly separating them.
What the US election demonstrates is that the same sectarian polarised views that exist within extremist organisations globally exist within allegedly sensible democracies – they just dress better, look official, are sponsored by products people trust and endorsed by others who should know better.
While fighting things that threaten our values we must not compromise those values. de Tocqueville held the perverse view that:
“one also finds in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to want to bring the strong down to their level, and which reduces men to preferring equality in servitude to inequality in freedom”.
The fight for the future is not about picking a camp – it is about networks of people with common held views on decency, equality, tolerance and respect making sure that the lunatics do not take over the asylum.
A utopia will never exist – our challenge as decent people is to take de Tocqueville’s atrocious assertion and change it so that we can say:
“The human heart possesses a JUSTIFIED desire for equality. The STRONG must help the WEAK. No man should equate EQUALITY with SERVITUDE or INEQUALITY with FREEDOM”.
They Made Desolation They Called It Peace
To lighten the mood in a debate where there is little room for humour in the current climate I would suggest that the future is about trying to figure out the duality of man and contradictions in human nature:
From a dialogue exchange between Pogue Colonel and Private Joker in the Stanley Kubrick movie Full Metal Jacket:
Pogue Colonel: Marine, what is that button on your body armor?
Private Joker: A peace symbol, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Where’d you get it?
Private Joker: I don’t remember, sir.
Pogue Colonel: What is that you’ve got written on your helmet?
Private Joker: “Born to Kill”, sir.
Pogue Colonel: You write “Born to Kill” on your helmet and you wear a peace button. What’s that supposed to be, some kind of sick joke?
Private Joker: No, sir.
Pogue Colonel: You’d better get your head and your ass wired together, or I will take a giant shit on you.
Private Joker: Yes, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Now answer my question or you’ll be standing tall before the man.
Private Joker: I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man, sir.
Pogue Colonel: The what?
Private Joker: The duality of man. The Jungian thing, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Whose side are you on, son?
Private Joker: Our side, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Don’t you love your country?
Private Joker: Yes, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Then how about getting with the program? Why don’t you jump on the team and come on in for the big win?
Private Joker: Yes, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Son, all I’ve ever asked of my marines is that they obey my orders as they would the word of God. We are here to help the Vietnamese, because inside every gook there is an American trying to get out. It’s a hardball world, son. We’ve gotta keep our heads until this peace craze blows over.
Private Joker: Aye-aye, sir.