Saturday 22 October 2016

Thoughts in Progress

I still remember when I was growing up in Cuba, a prevalent mindset amongst us, habaneros. A certain city vs country dichotomy. As an “habanero”, I, together with most of my family and friends, looked down on rural folk, seeing them as unsophisticated and simple-minded. Jokes were made at farmers’ expense and there was an air of superiority amongst us that betrayed the notion of a socialism-driven, collective society.

I changed my ways long time ago, especially when the economic crisis hit Cuba in the early 90s. All of a sudden we re-discovered a “new” passion for all things rural. Habaneros were no longer ashamed to be seen growing vegetables in any available space in modern flats, or rearing animals that usually ended up on their plate.

I was reminded of this recently after watching on telly one of the many analyses on the Trump/Farage/Sanders/Corbyn phenomenon.

Of course, although lumped together, these politicians are all different. They all, however, share one trait: they have shown up the “establishment” for the sham it is. In the process of doing so, they have also, like my fellow Cuban rural folk, taught some people some lessons. The question is: will we learn them (the lessons) and are we ready to listen?

Let me state something very clear from the outset so as to avoid any confusion: I hate everything that both Donald Trump and Nigel Farage stand for. I hate their open xenophobia, racism, misogyny and homophobia. I hate the way they have got away with whipping up hatred and twisting the political discourse for so long.

But guess what, both Donald Trump and Nigel Farage are necessary if one is to have a healthy democracy. That sounds like a contradiction but it isn’t, for what I am interested in is not what comes out of the mouths of messieurs Trump and Farage but their supporters’.

Both Britain and the US political systems are characterised by a two-party structure that allows very little room for other candidates to manoeuvre. Even in the UK, the recent electoral success of the Liberal Democrats (if we can call it that. After all they went into coalition with the Tories in 2010) met an early death after its then leader, Nick Clegg, reneged on most of his pre-election promises. What this means in practical terms is that we enter a non-stopping hamster-wheel of electability-friendly leaders. Said leaders move swiftly to the centre and thus become the purveyors of meaningless, vote-wining pledges that are rolled back the minute they move into Number 10 or the White House. Just remember “Make Poverty History” and Guantanamo.

The left-behinds

This situation has created a backlash in the last fifteen to twenty years. Just like my compadres and I could not see the importance of the person tilling the land back when we were children, politicians in the west (especially countries such as the UK, USA, Spain and France) have ignored for far too long the shopkeeper, the soldier, the nurse, the small business owner and the lorry driver. These people, however, have not forgotten what they have and they can use: the vote.

Enter Trump, Farage, Corbyn and Sanders. They have all understood that a) the political system needs to be shaken out of its complacency and b) there are rich pickings here for the right leader with the timely message. Forget for a second that Corbyn and Sanders trade in hope and openness, whereas both Trump and Farage deal in fear and hatred. The real scandal is that the “establishment” did not have an answer ready for the hundreds of thousands of people who have allied themselves to either the new left or right.  Remember David Cameron? The blandest – and apparently worst – Prime Minister in living memory was shown up for what he was: a leader with no direction, no agenda, no Plan B (not even Plan A) and, ultimately, no support from his own party.

As the US election fast approaches, there is a lesson here for the winner (it goes without saying that I support Clinton and yet, I have to admit that she and her husband are part of the problem). Currently on both sides of the Atlantic there is an atmosphere of mistrust which has led to insecurity, which at the same time has begotten fear. Over here in Blighty, if we were to chart Labour’s rich political history, we would see that what started as a party for working class people mutated into a middle-class-aspiring outfit. Blair’s administration failed to see, or did not want to see, the changes and challenges ahead. In catering to the urban, metropolitan “elite”, they, unwittingly, created a narrative that has been hurled back at them over and over, like mudballs.

Listening to people with whom one does not share the same opinion does not mean that we agree with them. Listening to other people means that we engage with them at a human level. After all, we share the same space. Politically speaking, to ignore this huge chunk of the population is political suicide (David Cameron, I’m looking at you). The biggest danger we face in neglecting this group is that they will default to a charismatic demagogue who will sweet-talk them into doing things and behaving in ways that maybe would have been thought impossible weeks before. The irony here is that someone like Trump, for instance, is a billionaire who had a leg-up from daddy in order to make it in the world of business. On the other side of the Atlantic, we have a Jeremy Corbyn who, although honest, cannot see that the times of partisan, binary voting are long gone. Nowadays a Labour voter will look at immigration, globalisation and employment and their effect on their lives before they even look at internationalism. In fact, many do not even mention the s-word (socialism). It makes no sense when unemployment is le mot du jour in many parts of Britain.

It is easy to point fingers at people and call them names when they do not share our political views. It is harder to try to understand their frustrations and listen to their opinions. But listen we must. It is the only way in which we can get out of this mess. After all, we all depend on the farmer and the land they till.

© 2016

Next Post: “Food, Music, Food, Music, Food, Music… Ad Infinitum”, to be published on 26th October at 6pm (GMT)


  1. I tend to stay out of political discussions because I don't feel well enough informed, to be honest. However, that having been said, let's just say that I am glad I am in Montreal, Canada and that I do not have to vote for any U.S. candidates. :)

  2. Hillary fibs but Donald Trump lies. If he were to be elected president he'd be impeached within weeks. Yes, both candidates are flawed but Hillary does her homework and is prepared to do the hard work of governing. Trump is lazy.

  3. True, free means morons like Trump gets a chance, but "rich" means he gets a chance to actually win, sadly. The poor guy is never going to get a chance. As for that buffoon, I hope he loses.

  4. Similar issues are at play in Australia too. And some minor voices whose messages I fear and despise have been elected to our parliament as a result.
    Scary times. Hate and fear should never dictate how we vote/behave. But they do.

  5. Since, different than you, CiL, I see Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as two sides of the same coin (a coin made from base metal, incidentally, not gold or even silver), my opinion is that the American people will be the ultimate losers in this pending election no matter which candidate wins. For my purposes, the best possible scenario would be if the party of the loser would control the Senate and/or the House of Representatives, so sort of a stalemate can continue.

    Another loser no matter who wins, I think, will be Barack Obama. Beneath the surface, even the Clintons will attempt to erase or remold his eight years in office into their own image and legacy and, eventually, monuments.

    And, another loser might well be the world-at-large. As the cliché goes, "May you live in interesting times." Unfortunately, the world being what it is right now, "interesting" is synonymous with "dangerous." Neither candidate is trustworthy in any sense of the word and it is well-established both have a pathology for lying to anyone and to everyone.

  6. Hi ACIL - thanks for this ... such a great post with some exceedingly accurate remarks and commentary. There is nothing sincere at all about Trump, or Farage I'd add. I hope politicians will be thoughtful and reasonable re Brexit - the people voted ... and to a point they have the responsibility for our present state of affairs. Selfishness should not prevail now, by the individual, even for the country, we need to work together to get the UK and Europe back on an even keel as quickly as possible. Having seen the Kuznetsov passing along the English Channel ... easily from my flat ... belching black smoke ... somehow we need political harmony.

    Individuals need to think things through and learn to think, negotiate, clarify quickly and get on with things .. I do sincerely hope the Western World can get back on its feet quickly ... be kind to its fellow citizens ...

    Thanks for this ... let's spread the gentle word ... and rescue ourselves from the morass we're getting ourselves into ... Hilary

  7. Our politicians might not be all we want them to be but I'm glad we have them and not people like Trump. We have the vote and we must use it wisely.

  8. Hello ACIL, your blog is very interesting. I'll be back for reading more posts and more carefully.
    We certainly live "interesting" times.
    Personally, I still don't understand why Hillary is so much criticised because of things that would be considered normal or a merit when speaking of a male politician.

  9. First, I agree with you and am probably just reiterating your whole discourse.

    I've been saying all along that Trump supporters are neither stupid nor unwarranted in their anger and vehemence toward the issues at hand. If you don't understand or have compassion for your opponent you will never effectively bridge the chasm between you and them (on both sides). We've got to understand what drives Trump's people with our eyes wide open even if it incriminates us. It's pointless to revile them.

    Second, I'm not making excuses for him, only saying that we should look in the mirror. Trump is a product of a capitalistic society gone mad, yes, he's a bred psychopath, but our culture of money and self aggrandizement helped to further create him and all the other mini Trumps running around this nation. This system is out of control and we are relentlessly focused on one man. If we don't get a grip on this, there will be Trumps ad nauseum. And we will keep forever saying we had nothing to do with it. ( We're as bad as him in "blame the other guy)

    Third, Hillary is not perfect and we naively expect a candidate/president to be so. Juvenile. ALL presidents make grave mistakes, every single one of them, before and after taking office. You take the best of the bunch (she has a pretty damn, hard won trail of great accomplishment and some fall-on-your face bloopers) and put it in perspective folks, stop trying to elect gods as if they will miraculously answer all your prayers . Because they sure as hell are fallible and and are not governing saints.

    Fourth, and then I'll shut up, this stooping to base levels of depicting the opponent in public nudity, (size of breast and genitals) and the ceaseless stoning of a sexual predator (a disgusting, abhorrent and rightfully punishable criminal act, for which he should be duly prosecuted)) who is not created out of thin air Come on people, we all helped create him. A population that applauds people like Beyonce (and I'm not picking on her singularly)but also a culture that has become rampantly sexualized and still hides behind the convenient excuse that one chooses to be adversely impacted by the image of seemingly whoring and actually provocatively naked women. (notice this idea is not usually directed toward men except in the most extreme cases ... I could give a myriad of examples, but I do realize that I am on a rant.... We should not espouse that person as material for public office -- but should, once again acknowledge the responsibility (on both sides!) in helping to create this kind of behavior. Instead of pointing fingers at only the two candidates.

    Sorry CIL, it sort of seems like Ive done my own blog post here, but I am quite astonished by the hypocrisy of an election that is so historically important to this country...I am an American.
    Some day I will learn how to cram all of this into a couple of sentences.)

    1. I'm only speaking of US politics, I, sadly know very little about your British political scene.

  10. It's appealing to desire a re-shuffling without fully comprehending the slow, delicate changes that our governments (ours!) need in order to function smoothly. When society evolves on an issue, changes in legislation and policy follow: Marriage Equity, Medical Cannabis, more inclusive and diverse life for all of us. These are things people my age and older worked patiently for DECADES to achieve. And we DID! Yes, you are right: elites NEED to hear the voice of those who turn to either of those two self promoting scoundrels. HRH is not perfect: just a proven leader who stands up to Putin and for families. Thank you for this VERY thoughtful and needed perspective!

    "both Donald Trump and Nigel Farage are necessary if one is to have a healthy democracy. That sounds like a contradiction but it isn’t, for what I am interested in is not what comes out of the mouths of messieurs Trump and Farage but their supporters’.


  11. You're right we always need to listen to the other side and I think there are lessons to be learned from the rise in popularity in politicians like Trump and Farage. Whether our political system or individual politicians as a group can learn the lesson is another thing entirely.

    In Scotland, we learned several years ago that Trump was not to be trusted (see the film You've been Trumped about how he destroyed a valuable wildlife site for a golf course and then rode roughshod over the locals - some of whom have been without mains supply water since he bought the land.)

    In Scotland we also have a political system that for all its faults does allow minor parties a real chance to have a say in national politics.

  12. I can only say thanks as humbly as I possibly can. Your comments show that there is hope. You all come from different walks of life and different politics (believe me, you do!). It is gratifying to read your well-thought and considerate feedback.

    Greetings from London.

  13. you have made yourself a very nice blog !love the header!and background settings

    about politics i dont know wht to say..I dont like trumph and i dont like hillary..but to choice from one of them it must be Hillary..she got more experience than Trumhp

    wish you a lovely evning with a good cup of milky tea(Iam having lol)

  14. Excellent points. Speaking as an American who loathes Donald Trump and his supporters (some wags have dubbed them "Trumpanzees"), I must admit that this horrendous man and his backers will not magically disappear after election day. Trump shamelessly exploited a large part of the population, but he also exposed the serious issues this country has, especially when comes to race. What can be done to reach these people, to show them that blind fury and unrestrained racism will not make their lives any better, well, I frankly don't know. There is a lot of hatred in this world, but apparently very few people who want to seriously do something about it.

  15. This is one of the best-considered evaluation I have read. The system does need to change, it is long overdue. Thank you so much. Always nice to read your posts!

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