Wednesday, November 09, 2016

[The Life of Shaun #540] It's not the end

It will all be OK in the end.  If it's not OK, it's not the end.

Today was not a good day to have an American accent in London.  I tried to stay silent, or at least speak very quietly.  I spent my first years in London having to answer for W, I didn't have the energy to field unanswerable questions about Trump, or explain how the person with the fewest votes will become president, again.

Perhaps it's just the denial stage, but I didn't feel the same devastation today that I did the day after Brexit.  While I love and respect Hillary Clinton, and know she would have been an amazing president, my 11+ years in the UK have detached me considerably from US politics compared to 2008, when Obama was elected.  Perhaps that's because I lived through most of the Bush years in situ, whereas the Obama years passed on the pages of The Economist and the New York Times.

Much like Brexit, the next four years will be very interesting to watch unfold.  We're living through one of those momentous periods that we all learned about in school and wondered what it must've been like to live through such turmoil and change.  It will be fascinating to see which of Trump's election promises, from the ludicrous to the frightening, he fails to deliver on; how (or if) he will explain that to his supporters; and how they will react to it.  I just wish I didn't have such a good seat to the show.

It's hard to think beyond the hurt and disappointment of Brexit and the Trumpquake, but it's important that we do.  Increasing income inequality, decreasing social mobility, diverging educational attainment and life expectancy - these are all symptoms of the failure of Western governments to provide for their people.  How have governments so failed their people that voters rejected the most qualified person ever to run for the President of the United States in favour of a sexual predator?

To me, the most glaring deficiency is in education.  Symbolised by Nixon's 1972 visit to China, America has led the post-WWII world towards an integrated, global economy.  While efficient and prosperous at the macro level, literally lifting hundreds of millions of people out of penury, globalisation has shifted the blend of labour needs from the local level to the international, leaving glaring holes in affected communities.  Over three decades of chasing the fallacy of trickle-down economics has led to a focus on cutting taxes rather than investment in people and infrastructure.  Governments have failed to meaningfully evolve education, leaving most people in the West with an industrial-era education for a flat-white economy.  This is apparent in the shift in voter allegiances; this election wasn't about the culture wars of the Bush years, it was about the winners and losers of globalisation.

I don't believe for a minute this is what united all of Trump's supporters; sexism, racism, xenophobia and two decades of Republicans' Pavlovian training in mistrust of the government all played heavy hands.  But I do know when people are doing well and feel equipped to succeed, they feel much less apprehensive about who's living next door or working in the kitchens at their favourite restaurants.  Every structure, physical or political, relies on its foundations.  Unless we do something to shore ours up, we're going to see more and more of these cracks.  I don't think Brexit or Trump will help this cause, but I hope that they will serve as a warning: we've been here before.  Let's hope this time we can see it.

It's a personal choiceShaun H. Coley ~ Shadwell ~ Tower Hamlets ~ London E1 ~ UK ~ ~ #Im

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