Smoke and Mirrors
The first thing we have to do to confront the assault on our reason and democracy, is to understand what is happening in our country and world. Specifically, we need to understand how far-right thugs have risen to power and why working class people are supporting them.
While the economic and political dynamics facing us are interwoven and complicated, there is a fairly basic source to the current crisis. Capitalism is struggling to survive – the people with money and power know it but the working mass of people don’t. Globalization, an effort to bolster 20th century capitalism has succeeded in generating wealth for the wealthy but the cost to social and environmental life has been astronomical. Ironically, globalization has been more successful that the wealthy expected – they thought they could gain with sufficient spin-off benefit for working people so no one would notice their theft. However, the exploitation of economies (resources and people) in the south has meant larger refugee and economic migration that has put a face to the economic change that has taken place. For Europeans and North Americans, it has provided very visible people to blame for the crisis rather than seeing who is really responsible. Working people are not seeing improvements in their life opportunities and are lashing out in anger, with its irrational consequences.
So in short, we should see the populist movement supporting Trump/Brexit/etc as a legitimate criticism of the political status quo though misdirected in supporting where change will come from.
Trump has Dominated Our Thinking
Trump has taken over the news industry. It seems every little thing he does or says has become public discourse. Social media is saturated with him on video, in text and imagery. I have not been to a social event in the last year where his name has not come up, either in expressing regret or humour.
I think we have to avoid becoming obsessive with him and focus on what we need to do to avoid the damage he and his ilk are bound to inflict on us locally, nationally and globally.
Let’s remember to start, that the people who voted for him and who support him now, have been hurt by the economic and political system they have. There has been decades of corruption and elitism in the American system and working people have borne the brunt of this system. The middle class are now feeling their dreams and expectations have been stolen from them. These people are angry and afraid. Anger and fear do not lead to rational thinking, choices or action.
One specific dimension of this exploitation was the signing of NAFTA almost 30 years ago. Those of us who protested this political shift to the control of corporations and the financial institutions warned of what was going to happen and it has. We spoke about how Canadians were going to feel the effects of these corporate trade deals when it hit their municipalities and manufacturing. I believe people see they have been sold snake oil but may not yet know who is responsible.
Second, lets pay attention to what Americans are doing in response to Trump. The mid-term election was not a resounding condemnation of the Trump juggernaut but it has put in place the means to formally challenge what he is doing. Congressional men and women may not have control of government but they control Congressional Committees where they have some leverage they did not have before. And we can see that the Democratic Party is still floundering, unable to take responsibility for the crisis in America and unable to propose a viable alternative.
However, the number of people who turned out to vote is significant (though it astounds me that commentators were gleeful that nearly 50% turned out – no one said much about the 50 million who did not vote). And women said in 2017 they were going to do more than protest about the corruption of power in America and they have. Women organized, got practically involved, elected women to Congress and have expressed a new sense of power in other aspects of American culture.
In Canada we should be doing our part, not just to help American clean up their system, but in making sure our country does not slide further into a reactionary abyss. We have some experience seeking democracy that is just and inclusive, but we have huge deficiencies to correct. Indigenous people, those living in poverty and homelessness know well the deficiencies in our system.
My next post will deal with some of the ways I think we can organize now.