2017 has witnessed the “rise of the right”. In numerous elections across the globe, far-right political leaders have come extremely close to securing top executive positions. The political landscape is riddled with demagoguery and cries for populism, for the closing of borders and the end of free trade. What gives?
Ultimately the rise of the right is a confluence of various factors, and it is difficult to pinpoint the exact influence of each. But here’s my two cents. People feel like they are losing control over their lives, and that resources are becoming scarce. I’m talking of the erosion of a sense of security in regards to job security, property ownership, and old-age pension. This affects the “locus of control” people feel they have over themselves and over society. According to Harnell et al. in the article “Locus of Control and Anti-Immigrant Sentiment in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom”, less control correlates with less tolerance for immigration and “the other” in general.
This resentment of the “other” is fueled by populists such as Trump and Le Pen, who blame loss of control on immigrants. Immigrants steal our jobs! Illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes yet they usurp government services! These claims are enticing because they explain the loss of control, and once the source of the problem is located it is easier to do something to solve it: travel bans, scrapping international trade agreements, building walls, etc.
But let’s put our critical thinking caps on for a second people. Is this really what is happening? In L’Âge des Démagogues, Entretiens avec Chris Heges, the latter argues that the socioeconomic conditions of minority groups such as immigrants, Black Americans, and women has not significantly improved. However we are duped to believe that real change has occurred by the inclusion of certain members of these groups into the elite.
So if these marginalised people aren’t getting richer, who is? The one percenters. The elite who comprise of one meager percent of our society, yet control the vast majority of its wealth. Not only are they resourceful in exploitation and wealth accumulation, but they are also resourceful in protecting their assets and creating a series of smokescreens to deter our criticism.
Capitalism just doesn’t create the trickle down effect that its supporters promote. Capitalism breeds inequality at an exponential rate. Our society is currently imbalanced. Instead of thinking for ourselves, it is easier to believe in what the demagogues tell us: that its the fault of “the other”. We rather place the blame on someone who comes from far away, who we are biased against due to deep-seated stereotypes, than to mistrust the companies that claim to serve us.
We need to wake up and realise that we serve companies, and not the other way around.
We need to think critically about our society, especially about the toxic and secretive relationship between big businesses and government.We have so many resources at our disposition, I beg you to look beyond what meets the eye, to listen to what it being left unsaid, to see what lays behind the smokescreen.
Lastly, we need to show more compassion for fellow human beings who are at the mercy of a tyrannic elite just as we are.