2016 has been a roller coaster year hasn’t it? In terms of referendums and elections, I can definitely say this has been the most dramatic I’ve ever experienced in my own memorable lifetime. First there’s Brexit, then there’s America voting Trump for president. It’s clear things are changing and it’s clear that immigration and economy have been the topics that have dominated the political and public arena for discussion this year, and probably for some time now. It’s easy to make the parallels between these two events in two of the most influential western countries on the planet. Heck, you can even see clear parallels with 1930s Germany. History and humanity seem to have a horrible way of repeating itself.
It’s easy to get angry and cave in to all the rhetoric and appalling behaviour shown to us of brexit voters and trump supporters. The Media love the dramatics, and so of course our perception of everything in the world is so black and white. Unsurprisingly it isn’t hard to show the world scared, racist xenophobes for a good eye catching story. Hate crime against immigrants in the UK has gone up since Brexit, and Donald Trump can start building his wall towards Mexico pretty soon. It’s easy to get angry and call these people who support and voted for this type of behaviour and thinking as evil, ignorant, selfish and horrible. I know I’ve definitely caved for those frustrated emotions more than a couple of times.
Being that this is the day the 45th president of the USA became Trump, I felt like it was time to have a little think about what the hell the world is doing right now. Because Brexit was one thing, but this Trump thing is a whole new level of shocking. I thought to myself though, that I really wasn’t just going to cave into the frustrations the same way I did after the Brexit results. I’m not going to just listen to the Media’s black and white presentation of the world, pass judgement on others whilst smugly thinking I’m above everyone else. It would be far too easy to sit here and think I know everything and what is right, and think those who voted Brexit or Trump are ignorant and wrong. Because the world is never so simple is it? If it were, we’d all be happy. But clearly, we aren’t all happy.
I think the turning point for me, and my first big adult “become a little humbler” lesson was when I talked to my dad this summer about Brexit. I was certain my entire family was a safe bet “Remain” stronghold, because well.. I love my family and I know they are all smart, well educated people (FYI none of us actually voted because I was in Australia and it was really inconvenient for me to vote, and the rest of the family han’t lived there for years so aren’t entitled to vote anymore, so any views and discussions we had were purely theoretical). I also know that my parents have both taught me to love and respect everyone from all walks of life, and I know that that life lesson comes from the heart. So to hear that I had a “Leaver” or at least a leave sympathiser among my parents was already shattering my perceptions of what such a voter, constructed by the Media, was like. My dad clearly isn’t a racist or a xenophobe or any of the horrible nasty things the media had been making him out to be, so what’s going on. Initially though, that’s what I in my head painted him as when I realised his standings. Without hearing his views, I already judged him. And whether you are a Leaver or a Remainer, judging a book by it’s cover is never acceptable. So then, after we talked and discussed, I realised it was clearly not a hateful subjective, ignorant thought process that had left him understanding the Brexit decision that had just occurred earlier that spring.Ever since then I have thought about that discussion and tried to think more independently from the black and white world in media. I’ve tried to make it real, remembering that people are people, and that we are in fact only human and were all giggling babies once.
Was campaigns for Brexit and Trump fueled on immigration policy? I would say yes, partly, but is that oversimplifying it? probably yes! For me, growing up in the noughties the news and my perception of what has been at the forefront of international concern has been dominated by three main things; Financial Failure, Middle Eastern War and Environmental concerns. You don’t have to look further than within UK itself to see that the country has suffered financial hardship for years, with increased austerity and widening of the class divide among people. The Financial crisis of 2008 is evidently still haunting us and the whole world. On top of that there has been so many wars and conflict in the Middle East for the last decade, I don’t even know where to begin to explain. Warfare has become different now too. It’s not just “boots on the ground” in a far away part of the world. There are clearly angry people bringing the war back to us too, bringing shooting and bombing right to our doorsteps. They have the advantage of us not knowing where they will strike next, and with no regards to their own safety or life, there is clearly a reason to be scared for what they can do next. So people are scared. I’m scared. Who isn’t scared of the possibility, however small and random it might be, that you might get shot any day by an angry man who you’ve never met? Just because fear is emotional and irrational, doesn’t mean fear makes us racists. it just makes us human.
I try to remember as well, that maybe yes, I would be in fact a a Clinton-er or a Remain-er if I would have voted, but sometimes I forget my own privilege in all of this. I come from a safe country that has ample of welfare benefits and money, as well as my own family being financially safe. I’ve had every opportunity I could dream of in one of the most equal societies in the world, with excellent schools, incredible hospitals and supportive communities. I’ve never been told or been in a situation where I have been limited by anyone, the only person who has limited me is in fact myself. This is not the life of most people in the world, unfortunately, not even in progressive western countries like the UK or USA. There are a lot of people still suffering and struggling, and have been for some while, and I think the exhaustion of no real – big scale – change has made people loose faith. The systems or people in place are clearly not working for these people, and I can sympathise that they may feel ignored by the political elite. Financial hardship and growing working classes are continuing, and I can sympathise with those very justified frustrations.
So maybe voting Brexit was not done out of hate for one particular group of people. Maybe it wasn’t just pure racism. Maybe people just saw this opportunity to vote Brexit as a opportunity for something different? Maybe it had nothing to do with racism at all for most, but purely about “taking the reins back” on running our own country. Making decisions that benefits all of the UK, immigrants included, themselves. I mean there’s some truth to that right? I used to hate going for walks when my parents told me to when I was little, but now when it’s my own choice I think it’s one of the most wonderful things in the world. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” seems to be tapping into the same vibes as those “Take back the rains” slogans of the Leave campaign. What Great America is he on about? Is he talking about the booming economy in the 1950s? Those glorified capitalist years of prosperity where “The American Dream” seemed like it would never end? Maybe. Maybe that hope of re-finding those years was enough for people to ignore all his dramatics, questionable opinions of groups of people, or actions from his past and present? He doesn’t have a political background in any shape or form, but he is a businessman, and he is therefore different. He’s arsed himself out, he’s been blunt and he’s been down right horrible, but that makes him more relatable right? He’s not perfect, he’s human. He’s this anti- establishment man, the “Take back the reins” of America. Something different? I can see why someone would vote for that when it didn’t feel like there were any more options on the table, when you consider what struggling situation in life they might be in. Amplify that with fear of an unknown threat of violence from Middle-Eastern warfare? People are people.
I’ve decided I can understand why this has happened then.. It’s far more complex than purely “they’re ignorant racist xenophobes”. I’m still left crushed though because I’ve realised it’s not why people have voted this year that makes me upset, but how it got to that point. Why do we continue to use this biased two-party voting system that is in my eyes barely can be called democratic? Like I’ve just said in this post nothing is black and white, either or, one or the other, blue or red, Republic or Democrat. Why have we been limited to pick “the lesser evil” or else feel completely ignored? That’s not democracy or “power to the people”? I’m angry that democracy is tainted with financial backing by the privileged elite. How come we accept a system that allows the rich to use their money to buy getting a special, secrete seat of power and influence, allowing them to maintain class divides and thus this status quo of inequality of resources, opportunity and welfare. I’m angry that there’s horrible wars in the world, and people are having to flee from their homes and lives, and seek safety in countries like the UK and USA, where there are people with their own struggles feeling frustrated and scared. I am angry that there isn’t more dialogue in the world, between individuals and also between countries and organisations. Maybe if dialogues were better between countries in the EU, the UK wouldn’t have felt like it needed to pull out, and maybe if there more dialogues in the Middle East there would be far less need for shooting and bombing.
Mostly though I’m sad. Not because of how or why.. But because of the result. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know if Brexit will help Britain’s struggling people, if these wars will ever stop, if Trump can do any good, or if things might get worse. I guess time can only tell. I am genuinely a little concerned on what my children will say one day about this era when they learn about it in class. What I do know is a lot of people are really unhappy, so unhappy that a man who said about me and my gender to “Grab them by the Pussy” has just become President of “The Free World”.
And don’t even get me started on Global Warming and the Environment.