In the interests of clarity and for anyone who gives a monkey's, here's where I'm at.
Like so many people, I'm worried about the effects on our civilisation of what appears to be an increasing emergence of forces and instincts across Europe and the West with anti-democratic, deeply authoritarian and worryingly demagogic elements. Whether they come from the left or the right of the political spectrum. Whether they were part of voting for or against Brexit. For or against Trump. Or any other of the votes or referendums that are going on.
Any attempt to exploit and stir up the very real worries and fears of people who feel they have been ignored for too long must be regarded with caution. Too many times in the past that particular tactic has been used to benefit the people doing the stirring and not those they say they want to help. People who see huge amounts of wealth being piled up by those reaping the rewards of business de-regulation and global trade deals but whose own lives and communities are seeing none of it.
They just see more public services being cut, more money being taken away from their local authorities, less opportunity for a secure job, fewer prospects for themselves and their children.
Some communities have lost their own industry and sources of employment as a direct result of other countries benefiting where labor is cheaper and workers are more easily exploited. Or through advances in technology and a skills market that they have become shut out of, with nothing to take its place.
Those communities are justifiably very angry.
How people feel about this has become mixed with a mistrust of the very people and institutions that they're supposed to be able to rely on - their politicians, the political system itself, the media, the financial sector, the list goes on and on.
A fear that those very institutions have been hollowed out from the inside by people out for all they can get at the expense of everyone else.
A fear that those institutions of democracy have become just a shiny surface with very little of substance left within.
Many good people, of real intregity and with a genuine desire to do something about it are out there working hard to address that mix.
At the same time, it is a mixture ripe for exploitation by people who have no intention of improving those institutions or re-energising the principles of democracy they should represent. They just see an opportunity to further their own self-interested agendas dressed up as a concern for 'ordinary, hard-working people.'
The shift of the whole political establishment towards the so-called 'centre' in the 90s and early 2000s appears to have created a disconnect in the traditional relationships between various political parties and the people they have always been relied on to represent.
The policies that were pursued then, whether intentionally or not, have been part of encouraging, on the one hand, massive inequality and systemic insecurity domestically and, on the other, a terrifying uncertainty and destabilization internationally.
Subsequently, with no meaningful answers to any of it being offered up by the political establishment, we're witnessing a move towards populism.
There are no real answers in populism. Just attempts to exploit strong feelings.
Push back against populism and it's empty rhetoric collapses. Which is why it tries to shut down rational discussion and thoughtful debate. It has to preserve its allure and power by remaining unquestioned and uninvestigated.
So it is that populism can open the door to the threat of demagoguery and all its attendant attacks on the things that any civilized democracy needs to survive - a political system that truly represents the will of the people not just certain sections of it, a fair and balanced press, free and fair elections, an adherence to the rule of law, the existence of an effective opposition, the right of people to demonstrate and organise, and everything else we value for a truly democratic society.
Of course, the important thing to realize, and the thing that the western establishment is now having to come to terms with, is that it is the apparent weakness and corruption that has been allowed to grow in those very things that creates the opportunity for populism and demagoguery to thrive in the first place.
This is how civilisations can break down, how empires can end.
Unless alternatives are brought into existence that not only address the real concerns that people have but also put forward real, meaningful and workable solutions then eventually change is forced to work through whatever options are available. No matter how imperfect.
Or potentially dangerous.
So, at this moment, if we are unhappy with the options before us, the most urgent need must be creating those new alternatives. And accepting that, while populism continues to rise, whatever already exists to oppose it is not working and must change. Either transform or be left behind completely.
Alternatives that encourage an economy that rewards responsibility and innovation as well as wealth creation.
That allows that wealth to be shared more equally. That supports communities in having more control over their own needs. That allows people to feel secure enough in their identity and the values of their community to be open to other ways of seeing the world. That allows everyone to have the opportunity for a good education, a solid job, a comfortable home.
These are not easy things to bring about, obviously. If they were we'd already have them.
So where do you start? Well....
Actions speak louder than words and eventually you have to put your money where your mouth is.
If you care you have to at least try. Even if you fail. You have to try. You start from knowing what you don't know and how ridiculous you seem and how unprepared you are.
But you start.
And you listen and try to hear.
And go where it takes you.
Try and leave behind left and right and see if you can contribute to solving actual problems that people are having.
Stick to your values.
Stand up for fairness.
Stand up to their enemies.
Try not to do more harm than good.
Not give a shit what people call you or accuse you of.
Unless there's truth in it.
Then have the courage to learn from it.
Be merciless about your own ego.
Know that sometimes you can be what most gets in your own way.
And just keep going until you're not helping anymore.
If you ever did. But at least you'll know you tried.
You have to start somewhere.
And you have to start.
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