That it is OK to lie? That it is OK to hate? That discrimination is OK if there is enough of you doing it? That if you have money and status, it is OK to intimidate people? That rational discourse and intelligent argument will get you nowhere? That scientific fact can be ignored if you don’t like what it is telling you? That it is OK to demean women? That it is OK to mock the handicapped? That Muslims are to be feared? That it is OK to dislike foreigners? That it is OK to cozy up to racists like the KKK – just a little bit. That the world comes down to us vs them?
That the end justifies the means, however disgraceful the means may be?
I could. Because as 2016 has shown us, all of that seems to be more than a little true.
But I can’t.
As young adults, the future of our nations is theirs to shape and they can’t let misogyny, racism, ignorance and xenophobia rule. They just can’t. The world needs them more than ever now.
So I will tell them this:
Life outside the bubble is not always pretty.
I am afraid we have to see the world for what it is before we can start to change it to what we would like it to be. Racists, homophobes, islamophobes, xenophobes, liars and bullies are a part of life. Yes, it is a tad depressing that they seem to be centre stage at the moment but we have to accept reality and work with what we have got.
It is also worth noting that the further you move out from a large city centre, the greater the number of insular and xenophobic people you will find. This is as true in Oxfordshire and Queensland as it is in Pennsylvania. I am not sure why and I am not sure what they should do with this information. It just is.
Seek to understand the other viewpoint – however deplorable it first appears to be.
Not everyone who voted to leave the EU was an ignorant xenophobe. Far from it. A large chunk of the 17.4 million people who voted for Brexit did so because they genuinely believed that the UK would be better off as a stand-alone country. It was also a chance to tell the out-of-touch European politicians and bureaucrats that the EU badly needs reforming – in perhaps the only way that they would hear. I fear the Brexiteers are likely to be very wrong on the first count, but they certainly have a point with the last one. The EU needs to change.
Not everyone who voted for Trump was a hate-filled, xenophopic, under-employed, evangelistic, gun-toting white guy – or married to one. In fact the 63 million Americans who voted for Trump could be split into three big chunks.
The first chunk could be tagged ‘Tribals’ – those people who have always voted Republican and always will. The Grand Old Party could nominate a tax-avoiding, vengeful misogynist and the ‘Tribals’ would still vote for him. Tribals don’t think; they just vote. Every political party has them.
The second chunk is ‘The Victims’ – the hate-filled, xenophopic, under-employed, evangelistic, gun-toting white guys – and their wives. There are a lot of them. They have been left behind by globalisation and the political elite have left them to rot. The system doesn’t work for them. Traditional politics hasn’t worked for them. They want change; any change and they feel they have nothing to lose. This is the group that is now voting in large numbers worldwide – turning UKIP into the UK’s largest political party in the European parliament, voting for Brexit to ‘take back control of their country’, putting the climate change denying, islamophobic and xenophobic One Nation party into the Australian senate, and of course coming out in force throughout the American rust belt to put an anti-politician in The White House. The challenge for politicians worldwide is that this group will only be getting bigger. The jobs that they want repatriated to Detroit or Sunderland or Geelong no longer exist. The Mexican and Chinese factory workers who “stole their jobs” are already being replaced by robots. But this group needs looking after. Those that can, need help with re-training and finding a new job. Those that can’t need to be looked after financially. This won’t be easy. But their very real needs must be addressed. Trade barriers are not the answer. It will only make matters worse.
The third chunk is the ‘Anyone but Hillary’ camp. These are people who just do not trust Hillary or anything Clinton. Their distrust of Hillary was so strong that it outweighed all of Trump’s deplorable behaviour towards women, minorities, Mexicans and Muslims. Their choice was either not to vote or to take a deep breath and vote for Trump. At least they voted. This is the chunk that the Democrats could have won over with almost any other candidate.
Never, ever, ever give up.
Hate, discrimination, misogyny and xenophobia will not win in the long run for the simple reason that these things are not a final state – they are a cry for help. Trump tapped into this cry for help to get elected in a most regrettable way. Perhaps when he is President, he will show the world that he is not as hateful, vengeful, discriminatory and xenophobic as he has pretended to be these last eighteen months. Maybe. But treat him, Farage, Hanson, Le Pen and their ilk as warning signals – as the canaries in the mines that sense a gas leak before anyone else. Noisy, loud, deplorable canaries as they may be.
The worlds of business and politics need to be more inclusive, more understanding, less elitist. Corporations need to pay their taxes and exist for the benefit of their customers and employees, not just their shareholders. Governments need to look after the victims of change.
As future leaders – remember this invaluable lesson.
What would Donald do?
And finally – when next confronted with a moral dilemma, you now have an easy solution. Just ask yourself one question, “What would Donald do?”
And then do the opposite.
[This was first posted 16 November 2016]
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