Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler and now Trump. The world finds its scapegoats. After all, it is much too easy for us to attribute all the evil and hopelessness in this world to one individual rather than acknowledge the problem so as to resolve it.
The Trump victory in the US has created quite a stir, some arguing that it has legitimised racism, misogyny, bigotry and intolerance. Thousands have taken to the streets in protest, capitalising on the popular slogan “not my president”. As if Hilary Clinton’s actual practice in public life wasn’t tainted with the blood of innocent people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.
What this writer felt was necessary to voice is concern over where these thousands were when the DNC cheated Bernie Sanders out of the nomination. As stated at the outset, it is easier to have an individual to hate rather than hate ourselves for our complicity in all that is wrong in this world.
Let us not pretend that there wasn’t an alternative – there was. There always is. The only question is why we choose to either rule it out as ‘too radical’ or ridicule it for being ‘idealistic’.
The questions we must be asking ourselves are: first, what do these far-right victories, in the form of the burqa ban, Brexit and president-elect Trump, mean for the world; and second, how did we get here to begin with?
Essentially, far-right victories indicate that the centre and the left have proven themselves incapable of responding to the changing global dynamics. When the left isn’t left enough, there is inevitably going to be an increase in support for an alternative, no matter how absurd the latter may seem.
Leo Tolstoy stated: “everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself”. That is exactly where the origins of this shift to the far right can be traced: the centre and left refusing to changes and adapt. Many have rightly pointed out that what Trump talks about doing is already being done at an institutional level.
If we look at the suggested deportation of Muslims, can someone in the world kindly direct us where to look for the US’ amazing track record on taking in Muslim refugees from the countries it ravaged? Trump is talking about deporting Muslims; Clinton, Bush and Obama all actively murdered and destroyed the lives of thousands of Muslims around the globe.
The rise in hate crimes across the US is being attributed to the president-elect, which to be fair is absolutely ludicrous if we put things in perspective. For starters, have we forgotten that the entire system within the US is based on institutional discrimination and violence against blacks, minorities and indigenous groups? Those apparently can’t be classified as ‘hate crimes’ because the state commits them. But when Trump supporters rip of a woman’s hijab that is deemed a hate crime.
One fails to see the distinction between the two: both are manifestations of the embeddedness of intolerance and hatred within the US, and also around the globe.
A similar set of circumstances exists in Pakistan. Everything that goes wrong in this country is attributed to the prime minister. Admittedly, while the prime minister has many massive failings, this sort of behaviour is neither productive nor capable of stirring the requisite change. Much like the Pakistani media, the Pakistani public too has amnesia. We pick up issues as and when they are raised, maintaining the pressure till we find something equally, if not more, appalling to talk about a few days later.
Criticism is in our blood: it has become part and parcel of who we are. This isn’t just limited to Pakistan. Look across the border into India and trace the rise of Modi. On this side of the border, we’re chanting slogans about how Modi is an Indian Taliban rather than understanding how India is going through a shift to the right wing in the same way Pakistan did at a much earlier stage.
There are concrete reasons for these shifts. They do not happen in a vacuum and they are not the fault of one individual or one political party. They arise as a consequence of deep-seated inequalities and frustration. They are a product of constant conspicuous consumption in the face of poverty. They may manifest themselves in the form of hate crimes, peaceful and violent protests, election results, or through other indicators depending on what tools of assessment you choose to utilise.
Instead of labelling and refusing to engage in dialogue, which is exactly what the centre and the left have done for the last many decades, it is time we bridged the gaps by trying to resolve the grassroots problems of economic and social inequality. For instance, instead of labelling Trump supporters ‘racists’ and ‘bigots’, it may prove worthwhile to understand why these feelings exist in the first place. That doesn’t imply justifying bigotry – it is merely a step in the long-term healing process this world needs to undergo.
If we put aside the artificial constructs that divide us, we may find that our problems are similar, if not identical. The rise in global terrorism, poverty and inequality demonstrates that we have common problems. This indicates that we have a common space for dialogue. It is that common space that must be enhanced so as to reduce the space that has been created by the politics of divisiveness that play on our human vulnerabilities and fears.
The writer is a lawyer.