November 30, 2016
From the election of Donald Trump, we have seen the seeds of something wonderful. It is certainly not the policies planned out by populists. Rather, it is the awakening of the political consciousness of “centrist” liberals. It is clear to me now that one does not react to the threat of an impending event, especially not threat posed by abstract conception. Persons react instead to events that have happened and not events that might happen. The political will to stop an event from happening is lacking because no-one is credited for their efforts towards the non-sensation of non-tragedies. In this way, the EU habitual inaction until after the fact is illuminated. It is not because the EU institutions are seeking to profiteer from capitalise by reacting after the fact, rather than reacting to indicators of threat. The political cost to take action is simply much cheaper to react to threats that are plainly obvious to all members of society, than to threats only perceptible to a gifted few with privileged vantage points on issues of importance.
Before we continue discussing the reaction to the reaction, we must first discuss the linguistic latter– the chronological first. It is apparent to me that the great masses of right-wing populism is not, and perhaps never was in history, fascistic. The leaders, and some in the radical fringe, of these movements may well be called fascists. However, I think it is an error in perception and understanding to call the bulk of these movements fascistic, or even radical. They are certainly militant; however, their behaviours and political desires resemble a much more ancient political force. They have more in common with Metternich than Mussolini: they are reactionaries.It is in their desire to roll back the world to the mythical romanticism of the good life lived by, ironically, their grandparents, who were likely born on the tail end of one world war, only to suffer through a second. There is nothing radical about their desire to return to the simpler times when society was ruled by tradition. Traditionalism is about as far as one can get from radicalism. They are simply being agitated by insistence of rapid change in the name of progress by those who regularly compare them to human garbage– ironically, largely based on the colour of their skin, their sexual preferences and their gender. This, combined with the insistence that the global marketplace has left them behind, awakened their political consciousness and precipitated the events that shook the world this year.
However, to address the impact of an event, one must also address the reaction to the event. To discuss a fire independently of the efforts of the fire department to extinguish said fire would be wanting, as is it to discuss right-wing populism without discussing the new liberal awakening. As every event is precipitated by a cause or causes, so to is every event followed by a reaction and so continues the stream of history infinitely, or at least the universe is claimed by entropy.
It is but early days for this so-called liberal awakening, but now the “silent centre”, which remained reticent out of fear for trampling the rights of individuals to free speech, is stirring. It is now obvious to everyone that populism, right-wing or its antithesis, poses a threat to democracy and to the very freedoms which underwrite democratic existence. We have seen commentators denounce those who formerly shared our tables with us, the radical left. We have seen stirring of new European sentiments. We have seen a reclaiming of the ideals of freedom beyond a politician’s buzzword. The old spirit of democracy, in the face of the now unstoppable tragedy of Donald Trump’s election, is revivified.
What remains now is to not allow ourselves as liberals, believers of individual freedom, to become complacent. The shot was fired across the bow. Have you the mettle to return fire or will you slink quietly into the shadows and let them do again what they did to the world eighty years ago?C. Shannon