“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”- George Santayana
The gravest political mistake of the 21st Century has been the misappropriation of Liberalism as an exclusively left wing ideology and fascism, as a right wing ideology, the vast majority of social issues are merely a consequence of this misunderstanding. This is the simple explanation for the current political climate. The rise of the alt-right, militant activism and most importantly, the fractured state of politics all have roots in this same mistake.
2016 was an anomaly. Tensions finally came to a head, tensions that have been intensifying since the rise of Islamic State, since the introduction of oppressive political correctness and since the rapid incline in conversational intolerance. The current state of affairs has fallen into disrepair through a decline in the value of fact versus rhetoric in the political discussion. After years of elitist, Ivy League, students trotting out claims of white privilege, islamophobia and gender inequality the nationalist kickback from the alt-right was a cataclysmic middle finger to decades of hard work from the sanctimonious self-proclaimed “Social Justice Warriors”, and against the odds, it worked.
In the year immediately following UKIP’s success in getting the UK out of the European Union we have seen a plethora of right wing movements galvanise the world with undeniably straightforward reasoning. From Trump in America, Orban in Hungary, Hofer in Austria, Wilders in Holland and Le Pen in France, there is a glaringly obvious opposition to refugees, and they make no effort to hide it. This in and of itself, of course, is not a racist idea, but it comes as no surprise that this is where the vast majority of racist, xenophobic, bigoted ideologues flock. The reason ethnocentrism is gaining rapid support is that the right have monopolised the issue of immigration. While left wing politicians and activists have failed to recognise why mass influxes of immigrants may be cause for concern, the right has somehow become the voice of reason, however misguided and egregious that voice may be. While the solution put forth by the right seems brash and extreme, the left has put forward no solution at all, instead maintaining an alarming neglect of the paramount political issue of the past five years.
All of this bears obvious ties to the entirely indefensible foreign policy blunders of the west since the turn of the century. Almost two decades on and three wars later it comes as no surprise that the solution to the Middle Eastern crisis didn’t involve the use of M4 Carbine’s. This is not to say such conflicts were a waste of time and money, or at least not for everyone. For military contractors like Halliburton and Blackwater (now Academi) these wars were tantamount to armed robberies, I’ve heard them described as lotteries but that implies an element of luck and the entirely orchestrated financial operation is far more sinister than that. The British and American taxpayers are right to feel as though they were merely lining the pockets of weapons manufacturers. Our indiscretions heretofore have culminated in an absurdly misguided polarisation of the right eulogising over the efficacy of a war on terror and the left seemingly parodying themselves as they strictly reject the notion that the implementation of Sharia Law would be anything short of a disaster in Europe.
At the centre of these conflicts is the issue of religion, with a clear focus on the conflict between Islam and Christianity. People inarguably do good things in the name of religion but if you attempt to claim that religion is harmless you simply haven’t been paying attention. From war to politics we must find a way to deracinate ties between religion and social policy. Religion must stop being used to justify wars, subjugate women, threaten ideological opponents, torture homesexuals and execute apostates. Until that day, it cannot rationally be included in any political, scientific or moral conversation regarding how best to enhance human civilisation. Though a degree of spirituality would be welcomed in such a dialogue, it will not be realised in the current paradigm of organised religion.
In sharp contrast with the issue of religion in 21st Century politics is the antonymous yet closely related issue of science. In the middle of a technological boom now is as good a time as any to understand where the results of such developments may take us. Clearly there are both positive and negative implications to be realised in this domain. For every group of scientists making breakthroughs in curing alzheimer’s, aids and the effects of radioactivity; you can be sure there is a laboratory dedicated to weaponising such maladies. The way we choose to move forward in this sphere will likely determine whether the human race lives to see the 22nd Century.
One constituent of modern technology which is starting to play a recognised role in politics is social media. Even five years ago I’m not sure anyone understood the implications of the sweeping online revolution, yet here we are, with a president whose primary means of communication is via Twitter. However this is not the issue, and anyone who claims this is the issue is neglecting the fact all significant politicians are guilty of this same demeanor, just with less success. The issue that has arisen from these streams of unverified information is scandalous fake news. To be clear, Trump has been one of the key purveyors of this malfeasance. And thus his vitriolic repudiation of comparatively reliable news outlets, such as the BBC, seems hypocritical, if not entirely unjustified. The battle we now face is creating a system which can quash fake sources immediately upon their release, in the current system every page you like on Facebook and activist you follow on twitter further encloses you in coffin of your own sentimentality and we must find a way of establishing balance in this environment. We must reform the spotlight of social media to illuminate the truth and not give a platform to unjust, unqualified speculation under a semblance of reality.
Justice system reform has become a rallying cry across the whole political spectrum, with the left keen to decriminalise drugs and the right keen to propagate the myth that drug abuse is feloniously immoral. In America, particularly, a solution must be formulated to the benefit of being rich and guilty rather than poor and innocent, which undeniably has ties to blatant attempts to alleviate blacks of the intellectual burden of a vote, which state governments have made no effort to mask. Understanding the implications of a wholesale paradigmatic shift is of vital importance now more than ever. Too many people are advocates of outlawing free speech in the most disastrously hypocritical development of recent history and worse yet, many people believe they are doing so in the name of liberalism. While much of the middle east has maintained draconian practices to inhibit blasphemy and criticism, we in the west seem to be equally divided between introducing such laws to coddle people’s emotions and maintain the commonsensical notion that freedom of expression is still of paramount importance. The most worrying infringement upon human rights is rather surprisingly, from my left leaning point of view, coming from my own side. The movement of self-proclaimed “social justice warriors” is frighteningly deluded and social media is aptly demonstrating how such ideologies can captivate a righteously bombastic audience.
Such judicial failures have prompted mass movements, mostly driven by rhetoric and with a distinct aversion to fact. While Black Lives Matter pushed for policy changes to reduce social inequality and feminists fought back against the stagnant wage gap; middle-aged white men responded en masse, and with unforeseen success. The rise of the alt-right wasn’t rooted in racism, it was a kickback against black identity politics, gender-neutral bathrooms, and in some instances, a repudiation of the supreme court ruling to legalise gay marriage, but none of it was inherently discriminatory. It was a generational fightback against a changing country, as made abundantly clear by the fact only 2% of Trump’s primary supporters were under 30 years old. These divisions don’t run as deep or numerous in the UK’s brexit debate, but what is clear, on both sides of the Atlantic, the demographics and motivations bear a salient likeness.
The current, fractured state of politics is drawing frightening comparisons to Europe in the 1940’s, and with some justification. It’s easy to see why the collapse of the European Union would draw such parallels but the result of schismatic politics is far reaching and could have a knock on effect in the developing world. Democracy is flailing at a time when we must demonstrate it’s value in order to shape the future of international politics. We must be able to point to a system that works if we are going to convince Arab states not to bow to the archaic jurisprudence of theocracy, and the current state of affairs is not a good advert for liberal democracy. Meanwhile, many African countries will be looking elsewhere for political inspiration to produce economic development, and currently, it’s hard to see why they would follow suit of the west when they look at the prosperity of China and Russia as an indication of what’s possible with the stability of a crypto-autocratic regime.
There are obvious solutions to the recurring social disparities and poorly implemented economic systems that have been poorly adopted in the UK and across the pond in America. The first of these solutions is simple: use foreign powers as blueprints for policy change. If we see that decriminalising drugs is working effectively in Portugal, I can think of no good reason why it wouldn’t ameliorate the drug problem in the UK and America, and certainly can’t think of any reason to not try. There are countless examples of countries introducing controversial policy changes to solve social problems and seeing demonstrable benefits. We neglect these neoteric social advances at our own peril. The second solution seems inevitable and is obvious upon closer inspection: the introduction of independent political fact-checking bodies. Which again, if implemented correctly could only serve to aid any political discussion. The final, and most important, political development would hands down be the creation of a new system of voting to make the most of technological developments, which forces the voter to do more than cross a single, quadrennial ballot. My system of voting is a far cry from the current systems of First Past the Post, Proportional Representation or the Additional Members Systems. It is the first step in the symbiotic techno-political revolution, a system where finally, after centuries, we will create a society for the people, by the people. It is the route to knocking down the walls of political jargon and government smokescreens and give the people what they want. It is the method of extinguishing apathy and activating those who care to bring about positive, multi-faceted change rather than tacitly maintain the status quo. It is the system of Isolated Policy Selections, a reformed voting system that would allow voters to choose policies they support rather than parties they don’t.
However, in order to find the solution of the future we must first recognise the problem of the present. This level of isolationist sentiment has existed before, but due to the ubiquitous capacity for global destruction in the 21st Century it may never happen again. We are truly just a few diplomatic errors away from an anthropomorphic apocalypse. This is how we got here, and more importantly, how we can embank the currents of political fanaticism to create positive change and combat the stream of cult politics.