Friday, May 24, 2019

The Wave of Manufactured Rage Sweeping Across Societies Now, and Silliness of the "Economic Alienation" Explanation: It's About Racism, Misogyny, Xenophobia, and Homophobia

Shorn of any ideological hue, this is populism distilled into its purest form: a pared-back rage over an apparently corrupt political establishment's failure to abide by the democratic will of the people. 

Farage and Brexiters are now riding a wave in England. Hard-right fascist-leaning movements are gaining strength globally, including across Europe. India's far-right groups just won a major victory in that nation. What Trump and his supporters represent in the American context is cloned again and again across nations now. My reading:

• Things are going to get worse, much worse, before they get better.

• When you let the raw, demonic energies of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and homophobia out of the bag, you will always find that many more people than you had imagined are willing to be moved by those energies, to entertain manufactured rage and hate.

• Many of those will be people you had once considered to be "good," people who had not revealed what is actually roiling the depths of their souls until hate has been normalized and they feel safe in showing you who they are.

• As entire societies welcome the current wave of manufactured rage that is all about racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and homophobia, you will see many other "good" people doing what they always do in such historical moments: sitting by in absolute, complicit silence.

• I do not have the luxury of believing the mendacious "economic alienation" meme that the U.S. media love to use to explain why so many people are so full of manufactured rage — driven by racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and homophbia — right now.

• I do not have the luxury of believing that particular lie because I grew up in the American South during the Civil Rights period and I saw what many people are capable of — both those who never hid the hate very far underneath the façade of their everyday lives, and the "good" people who either took the opportunity to let their own hate manifest itself when others' hate became normalized, or the "good" people who sat by in total silence.

• Given what I saw in my formative years, I don't have the luxury of concluding anything other than this: some people in all societies will always revel in the opportunity to be caught up by manufactured rage that is all about racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and homophobia.

• And some "good" people in those societies in which a wave of manufactured rage is sweeping through the entire society will either applaud the hate or stand by in total silence.

• I don't have the luxury of pretending that the reason most of Trump's supporters love him is that they are coping with "economic alienation." This is Simply. Not. True.

• It's as simply not true as is the notion that people are jumping on Farage's bandwagon, or that they love Viktor Orbán or Steve Bannon or Cardinal Burke or Matteo Salvini or Marine Le Pen or Heinz-Christian Strache or Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis or Franklin Graham or Sebastian Kurz or Jerry Falwell Jr. or Mitch McConnell or Lindsey Graham or countless others, because they're caught up in economic malaise.

• History should have taught us that we cannot build sturdy democracies unless we make room in our democratic planning for the recognition that, while Mr. Jefferson and the Enlightenment may have been right that people are capable of collaborating and building good societies together, a certain dark energy is simply always there, too, in human communities, ready to manifest itself.

• That dark energy was built right into the foundations of American democracy by Mr. Jefferson with his sunny vision of all people being created equal, words he dared to inscribe in our foundational documents while owning slaves, and while representing a slaveholding white male elite that never intended to enfranchise non-property-owning white men, women, or black human beings.

• We need to own and face the darkness that dwells within us and our history if we expect to build healthy societies.

• And unless good people who believe in democratic government remain constantly vigilant about the ways in which that dark energy corrodes their democracies, and determined to act decisively to check that dark energy when it begins manifesting itself more and more openly, democracies can and will crumble.

• And when those energies reach a certain frenzied peak and become an ineluctable wave sweeping over multiple societies, the only thing that can stop that wave, unfortunately, is for those societies eventually to wake from their dreams of manufactured scapegoating rage and to ask themselves if all this hate, all this oppression, all this bloodshed — one more time in history — was really worth it?

This, my final point, is where I personally think our world is headed at present. Unfortunately….

For my response to readers' responses to the preceding text, see this subsequent posting.

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