Trump is a symptom, we need a cure

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Dr Oscar To

Staff writer



As Donald Trump’s meteoric rise as a potential presidential candidate is generating shockwaves throughout not only the USA but the entirety of the world, many of us sit on the side-lines horrified, wondering how this could possibly happen. And that itself is the problem. We wonder, because we do not understand.

Many people will simply dismiss Trump as the vote of uneducated people that are too stupid to realise the actual problems that face the world today. And it is this exact viewpoint that reveals our own lack of empathy and understanding for the problems that face people today. The same can be said when we sneer at those that vote UKIP or even conservative. These are symptoms of real issues that are not going to be solved by calling it delusional.

Fundamentally, our lives have taken a different path. The majority of us will have gone to university, and engaged in a more cosmopolitan society hidden away from the rigours of a working reality. In contrast, other people will have left school and started working immediately, barely making ends meet in a work environment that has failed to get any better in spite of time spent. Time seems frozen in a series of shaky jobs (worsened by zero hours contracts) and the loss of any future once dreamed up in life ambitions. It is this same reason why I cringe when people say they can’t afford to lose any more money from the junior contract debate. Even an FY1 salary is immediately much more than many people in this country earn, so when doctors claim they can’t make ends meet, it strikes others as a sign of people that are completely out of touch with their world.

However, look at our parents, and their working conditions will have been substantially better, with many jobs paying much better and being secure. Our parents will have managed to earn enough to save a little and spend it on things such as a house, which for many nowadays is just a pipe dream.

So nostalgia back to a better time becomes an easy target to garner votes. But of course, nostalgia is affected by rose tinted glasses, and the imagined past is different from the real past. It manifests as a world where people were able to work hard and advance in their lives, and also a world prior to mass immigration. It is why tax cuts are supported, even when they simply exacerbate inequalities. This narrative is also strengthened by the precarious uncertainty many people live under. Change becomes the possibility for a worse future, whilst nostalgia is a warm memory of ‘making America great again’.

Whilst many of us say that the world is a much better place than it was, with progressive laws such as the abolition of apartheid, and increasingly levels of equality, this actually means little to the working class white man. Indeed, the only thing they have seen is a loss of the privileged position of wage earner and head of household. This is reflected in our cultural output with the increasing prevalence of tropes such as the country bumpkin, sassy black person, and gay best friend. They reject the traditional working class white as little more than the butt of a joke.

Evidently, change is necessary. The current environment has been fuelled by political parties that are increasingly seen as similar and perpetuating status quo. This is only strengthened further when newspapers continue to echo how well the economy is doing, in spite of how it doesn’t seem to be making things any better for people themselves. This is what is currently giving outsiders the advantage in western politics with the rise of Podemos, Tsipiras, Corbyn, as well as the far right. They are seen as more trustworthy and thus able to actually create change. Indeed, Trump versus Hilary, the likely outcome, is a situation that greatly favours this outsider versus incumbent dialogue.

In the end, something is eventually going to have to give, because the world cannot continue with business as usual. Whether we will see reforms that strengthen redistribution in a society that is becoming increasingly unequal, or whether it will take a shock like another economic crash to make it change remains to be seen. But what we can’t just do is say how terrible things are and then expect them to go away whilst we do nothing.

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