Welcome to the age of anger

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/dec/08/welcome-age-anger-brexit-trump

The seismic events of 2016 have revealed a world in chaos – and one that old ideas of liberal rationalism can no longer explain

by
Thursday 8 December 2016

The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States is the biggest political earthquake of our times, and its reverberations are inescapably global. It has fully revealed an enormous pent-up anger – which had first become visible in the mass acclaim in Russia and Turkey for pitiless despots and the electoral triumph of bloody strongmen in India and the Philippines.

The insurgencies of our time, including Brexit and the rise of the European far right, have many local causes – but it is not an accident that demagoguery appears to be rising around the world. Savage violence has erupted in recent years across a broad swath of territory: wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, insurgencies from Yemen to Thailand, terrorism and counter-terrorism, economic and cyberwar. The conflicts, not confined to fixed battlefields, feel endemic and uncontrollable. Hate-mongering against immigrants and minorities has gone mainstream; figures foaming at the mouth with loathing and malice are ubiquitous on old and new media alike.

There is much dispute about the causes of this global disorder. Many observers have characterised it as a backlash against an out-of-touch establishment, explaining Trump’s victory – in the words of Thomas Piketty – as “primarily due to the explosion in economic and geographic inequality in the United States”. Liberals tend to blame the racial resentments of poor white Americans, which were apparently aggravated during Barack Obama’s tenure. But many rich men and women – and even a small number of African-Americans and Latinos – also voted for a compulsive groper and white supremacist.

The Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman admitted on the night of Trump’s victory that “people like me – and probably like most readers of the New York Times – truly didn’t understand the country we live in”. Since the twin shocks of Brexit and the US election, we have argued ineffectually about their causes, while watching aghast as the new representatives of the downtrodden and the “left-behind” – Trump and Nigel Farage, posing in a gold-plated lift – strut across a bewilderingly expanded theatre of political absurdism.

But we cannot understand this crisis because our dominant intellectual concepts and categories seem unable to process an explosion of uncontrolled forces.

In the hopeful years that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the universal triumph of liberal capitalism and democracy seemed assured; free markets and human rights would spread around the world and lift billions from poverty and oppression. In many ways, this dream has come true: we live in a vast, homogenous global market, which is more literate, interconnected and prosperous than at any other time in history.

And yet we find ourselves in an age of anger, with authoritarian leaders manipulating the cynicism and discontent of furious majorities. What used to be called “Muslim rage”, and identified with mobs of brown-skinned men with bushy beards, is suddenly manifest globally, among saffron-robed Buddhist ethnic-cleansers in Myanmar, as well as blond white nationalists in Germany. Violent hate crimes have blighted even the oldest of parliamentary democracies, with the murder of the MP Jo Cox by a British neo-Nazi during the venomous campaign for Brexit. Suddenly, as the liberal thinker Michael Ignatieff recently wrote: “Enlightenment humanism and rationalism” can no longer adequately “explain the world we’re living in.”

The largely Anglo-American intellectual assumptions forged by the cold war and its jubilant aftermath are an unreliable guide to today’s chaos – and so we must turn to the ideas of an earlier era of volatility. It is a moment for thinkers such as Sigmund Freud, who warned in 1915 that the “primitive, savage and evil impulses of mankind have not vanished in any individual”, but are simply waiting for the opportunity to show themselves again. Certainly, the current conflagration has brought to the surface what Friedrich Nietzsche called “ressentiment” – “a whole tremulous realm of subterranean revenge, inexhaustible and insatiable in outbursts.”

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/dec/08/welcome-age-anger-brexit-trump

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‘Rebel’ Saudi Arabia woman who posted photo without head scarf is arrested

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/12/saudi-arabia-headscarf-woman-twitter-arrest

Malak al-Shehri’s tweet defying Saudi dress code caused backlash, with many people calling for her to be executed, but supporters comparing her to Rosa Parks


Monday 12 December 2016

Saudi police have arrested a young woman who tweeted a picture of herself outdoors without the body-length robes and head scarf that women in the kingdom are required to wear.

A woman identified as Malak al-Shehri posted a picture of herself on Twitter in a jacket and multi-colored dress last month after announcing that she would leave her house without her abaya, a long loose-fitting robe, and headscarf.

The tweet caused a backlash with many calling for Shehri – whose first name means angel, which was also her moniker online – to be executed with the hashtag “We demand the arrest of the rebel Angel Shehri.”

The picture posted on the downtown Riyadh street of al-Tahliya, led to someone filing a complaint with the religious police, and eventually to the woman’s arrest, according to the local Arabic-language Al-Sharq newspaper.

A police spokesman told the newspaper that Shehri, who is in her 20s, was taken to prison and he also accused her of “speaking openly about prohibited relations with (non-related) men”.

“Police officers have detained a girl who had removed her abaya on al-Tahliya street, implementing a challenge she announced on social media several days ago,” the newspaper quoted Colonel Fawaz al-Maiman as saying.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/12/saudi-arabia-headscarf-woman-twitter-arrest

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How the Democrats could win again, if they wanted

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/29/how-the-democrats-could-win-again-if-they-wanted

Labor and economic equality used to be at the heart of liberal politics. Rich professionals expunged these concerns – and have reaped the consequences

Tuesday 29 November 2016

What makes 2016 a disaster for Democrats is not merely the party’s epic wipeout in Washington and the state capitals, but that the contest was fought out on a terrain that should have been favorable to them. This was an election about social class –about class-based grievances – and yet the Party of the People blew it. How that happened is the question of the year, just as it has been the question of other disastrous election years before. And just like before, I suspect the Democrats will find all manner of convenient reasons to take no corrective action.

But first let us focus on the good news. Donald Trump has smashed the consensus factions of both parties. Along the way, he has destroyed the core doctrine of Clintonism: that all elections are decided by money and that therefore Democrats must match Republican fundraising dollar for dollar. This is the doctrine on which progressive hopes have been sacrificed for decades, and now it is dead. Clinton outspent Trump two-to-one and it still wasn’t enough.

Neither were any of the other patented maneuvers of Clintonism. With Hillary carrying their banner, the Democrats triangulated themselves in every way imaginable. They partied with the Wall Street guys during the convention in Philadelphia, they got cozy with the national security set, they reached out to disaffected Republicans, they reminisced about the days of the balanced federal budget, they even encouraged Democratic delegates to take Ubers back and forth from the convention to show how strongly Democrats approved of what Silicon Valley was doing to America. And still they lost.

This is important because winning is supposed to be the raison d’etre of centrism. Over the years, the centrists have betrayed the Democratic party’s liberal base in all sorts of ways – deregulating banks, securing free trade deals, signing off on Wall Street bailouts and the Iraq war. Those who bridled at all this were instructed to sit down and shut up because the Clintons and their triangulating ilk were the practical ones who would bring us victory.

Except that they don’t. This year the Republicans chose an honest-to-god scary candidate, a man who really ought to have been kept out of the White House, and the party’s centrists choked. Instead of winning, the pragmatists delivered Democrats to the worst situation they’ve been in for many decades, with control of no branch of the federal government and only a handful of state legislatures. Over the years, and at the behest of this faction, Democrats gave up what they stood for piece by piece and what they have to show for it now is nothing.

Another shibboleth that went down with the Hillary Titanic is the myth of the moderate swing voter, the sensible suburbanite who stands somewhere between the two parties and whose views determine all elections. These swing voters are usually supposed to be liberal on social issues and conservative on economic ones, and their existence gives a kind of pseudoscientific imprimatur to Democratic centrism.

For years people have pointed out that this tidy geometry doesn’t really make sense, and today it is undeniable: the real swing voters are the working people who over the years have switched their loyalty from the Democrats to Trump’s Republicans. Their views are pretty much the reverse of the standard model. On certain matters they are open to conservative blandishments; on economic issues, however, they are pretty far to the left. They don’t admire free trade or balanced budgets or entitlement reform – the signature issues of centrism – they hate those things. And if Democrats want to reach them, they will have to turn away from the so-called center and back to the economic left.

There are some indications that Democrats have finally understood this. Elizabeth Warren’s star is on the rise. Bernie Sanders is touring the country and reminding people that class politics are back whether we like it or not. Keith Ellison is running for chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

But the media and political establishments, I suspect, will have none of it. They may hate Donald Trump, but they hate economic populism much more. If history is a guide, they will embrace any sophistry to ensure that the Democrats do not take the steps required to broaden their appeal to working-class voters. They will remind everyone that Clinton didn’t really lose. Alternately, they will blame Sanders for her loss. They will decide that working-class people cannot be reasoned with and so it is pointless to try. They will declare – are already declaring – that any Democratic effort to win over working-class voters is a capitulation to racism. Better to lose future elections than to compete for the votes of those who spurned their beloved Clinton.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/29/how-the-democrats-could-win-again-if-they-wanted

 

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I am a Democrat in rural, red-state America. My party abandoned us

You can’t win elections if you don’t run candidates. You alienate voters by describing them as inhabitants of fly-over country.

When people hear themselves described that way they get the feeling you don’t give a shit about their hardships and vote for the party that actually bothered to put up a candidate.

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/15/rural-america-working-class-voters-democrats-donald-trump

Donald Trump came and said he cared. It’s not rocket science: that’s why he won


Tuesday 15 November 2016

I come from rural Texas. I am one of the handful of people here who votes blue – and I put up with all kinds of ridicule and rejection because of that. Many of the people who voted for Trump are my friends and family. Yes, some of them are racist but not all of them are. The reason they support Trump is simple: their needs have been thrown aside for years.

Donald Trump is a horrible person. I am glad people are protesting him. But many people here do not see an alternative. The Democratic party does not care about our issues, our culture or our people. There are hundreds of towns in this country just like ours. Well, Donald Trump came and said he cared. That’s why he won: it is not rocket science. We need to look at the truth so we can bring about change.

People here are losing everything that generations of families have worked to build. They depend on their churches for help. They believe people should work hard. Most of us work six to seven days a week, every week. It is no good to judge us instead of understanding us.

We have two private prisons in this town that sustain us in this crunch. Do I agree with private prisons? No. At the same time, if our prisons close it will wipe us out. Not one blue politician has offered a plan to deal with what happens to us then.

It’s the same with climate change. My hometown flourished for years because of oil. Now that the price of oil is down, this town lives on one-third of the budget they had. Nobody in Washington DC cares about that either. No wonder so many people in coal country voted for Trump: they were worried about their jobs and income, and they felt that he was the only one listening.

The people who are writing us all off as racists and deplorables have not seen the community and kindness that exists here. When our elementary school burned down the year before last the whole community everyone dug deep to find the money to buy and build a new school.

In my community, I see a mother whose kid has been in the hospital for a month come home and start her coat drive the next day. I see another mother who spends the month of October collecting junk and selling it for money to send care packages to the military overseas.

I see another woman build one of the state’s best animal rescue centers. She makes sure that everyone can afford to get their pet neutered. I see her spend every Saturday driving 40 miles for dogs to find a home. I see the local community board provide me with space to make a community garden that is free so everyone in town will have access to organic food.

Rural culture is as important as any other culture and is often thought of as backwards, dumb and redneck. At university, people assumed I was stupid because of my accent. A colleague said right in front of me that my southern accent and enthusiasm should be overlooked because, actually, I was smart. Now that Trump has won, I see countless people say that my community – and communities like mine – voted him because we are ignorant and bad-hearted. How is that going to help things?

I completely understand why people voted for Trump. I do not agree with it but I understand it. If people want things to change they need to understand us too: we are hurting. We need help to turn our communities around – otherwise, people like Trump will continue to get votes here.

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