I think we should talk about politics. It’s hard not to, when we are confronted with America’s most insane presidential campaign to date and the aftermath of Brexit. A lot has been said of both and I don’t want to add more of the same layers to these issues. But to point out the fact that, more than ever before, it’s made me think about where are we going wrong with the way we govern our world today.
I grew up in communism, in the 80s Romania. I was only 10 years old when communism ended and I consider myself lucky that I haven’t lived through its worst, that I wasn’t old enough to care about anything other than playing outside with other children. But I knew enough about how one man’s insanity, given power, can turn a whole country into an absurdist dystopia. Basic freedom, the right to a political opinion, the right to travel, to thrive, to be different did not exist.
After the fall of communism, Romania went through twenty years of syncopated development, with a political class defined by greed and corruption. Many Romanians found themselves nostalgic, longing for their deceased dictator and his pledge for equality.
At least everyone was poor.
At least we all had a roof above our heads.
At least we all had a job.
At least we were all in the same boat.
Even though, I was too little to be affected by communism the same way the generation of my parents had (it is reported that over 10,000 Romanian women died from unsafe abortions, after Ceausescu decreed abortions illegal), I still couldn’t believe these people. How could they long for a system that was so obviously (even to a child’s imagination) wrong?
I strongly believed that the system of democracy, flawed as it may be, is a far better alternative. And I still think so. But not in its current form.
Let’s take Brexit for instance. The people who voted to leave the EU, didn’t vote to leave the EU. They voted against the establishment, against poverty, against jobs loss, against being ignored and marginalised by the people in charge of the country. It was a protest vote. But the people who promised them money being reinvested into the NHS and an end to immigration (something they somehow directly correlated with the loss of jobs and the low standard of living), fled and left behind a new government with no plan. Their change, the change they so longed for, came in the form of a devalued pound and political and economical uncertainty.
In the US, the mind boggling rise of Donald Trump as a political candidate, not to mention as a presidential candidate, comes from the same source: the people are poor, the people are discontent, the people want change. And he is promising stuff he can’t possibly deliver. Not in the way the system is devised. Not in the way the Congress works. Unless they become dictators. Because that’s what democracy is all about. There must be some sort of safety net in place. And perhaps sometimes this safety net means that things take longer to change. But what would the alternative be?
I grew up in the alternative. And I don’t wish it on anyone.
I think we should all learn our lesson from Brexit and the American presidential elections. They are a sign of our times. A sign of our discontent mixed with distrust in our political system, celebrity adulation, public performance, lack of political, economical, historical education, and good old propaganda. The problem is not that we got to this point, to the point that people like Trump and Farage get to say what happens in the world. But that good people, people like you and me, or him or her, don’t get involved.
We’re not loud enough, we’re not brazen enough to make ourselves heard. And that’s why (making abstraction of whether she is a ’nasty’ woman or not) I think Hillary is taking the right approach. She is beating him (or at least putting up a fantastic fight) at his own game.
But perhaps what happened will mobilise us once and for all. No matter what the outcome. Because, whether we like it or not, we let it happen.