Populism and Obi-Wan

Reading time – 2:59; Viewing time – 4:06  .  .  .

Here’s Jax definition of populism: Mob behavior gussied up with a slick political cover.

Trump’s base is entirely populist, calling for extreme reaction to any issue and blunt force solutions to all problems. Think: Muslim ban; kidnapping children; building a $38 billion wall; embracing white supremacy and more.

Here are some characteristics of populism:

We are poor, innocent victims and that gives us the right to attack the imagined meanies who we fantasize have victimized us.

There is only “us” and “them” and we have to repress “them” or they will take over and victimize “us.”

There is always an enemy to demonize and dehumanize and blame for every problem. It’s never our fault and it’s never simply new cultural circumstances or the result of technological or global change. (See the cartoon below.)

All problems can be solved by hitting harder.

New thinking and fresh ideas are never contemplated or even welcome. Truth, facts and reality are no more than minor inconveniences, bumps in the road to greater power grabs.

Subtlety? What subtlety? We don’ need no stinking subtlety. We don’ need no stinking diplomacy. Or regulations to stop those who would exploit us. Or a press or justice system to hold leaders accountable. What accountability?

We are demanding of and slavish to an autocratic leader, a hero to worship, a strongman to idolize.

Perhaps democracy – rule by the people either directly or through democratically elected representatives – is an anomaly in human existence. Perhaps we are globally on the way back to monarchical, even dictatorial rule as our human default. The key is to envision what that looks like when we tear apart our hard won rights and structures, the foundations of freedom we’ve spent centuries building.

Our ancestors rebelled against the tyrant, King George III. You learned about that in your history classes, and his kind of tyranny is the world standard in the absence of democracy. In a monarchy, the people are rarely happy and most often are oppressed by the ruling class. That’s only attractive if you’re part of that ruling class. If you’re Dorothy from Kansas, not so much.

So, to the 27% of Americans who think that the government kidnapping of infants and children is okay, who think that shoving a thumb in the eye of our international friends is a good idea, who want to cozy up to tyrannical enemies of our country and who want to dismantle all of government and the judicial and press foundations that check executive excesses, you better be careful what you wish for. You just might get it and you will not like it and your grandchildren will curse you for your blindness.

Populism is driven by and generates great rushes of testosterone fury. It creates huge clouds of the sensation of being powerful, of sticking it to someone. But when those clouds lift we’ll be left with the tyranny of oppression.

To be clear, Trump and his minions are our challenge now. But to step back and look at a bigger picture, there is always a tyrant waiting to steal the reins of power and commit horrible acts and steal our democracy for himself. That can only happen if we allow the 27% to have their way.

I don’t have any notion that anyone can quickly change the visceral drive of the mobs that are the populism of this country. The Obi-Wan that is our only hope lies within the rest of us.

Click me for a larger image

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Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
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