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Wednesday, 16 November 2016

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Desperate Reader

I think I understand, sort of, why reasonable people might have voted for Trump or Brexit. I remind myself that there are as many reasons for voting as there are voters, and hope that things will turn out better than I fear, but I am afraid. As a child growing up with the Cold War in the background, the Irish troubles a lot closer to home there were times when I was really frightened by the future, but for years it seemed like we were making so much progress, and now it doesn't. The hardest thing to come to terms with are the small, individual, acts of racism that have followed these results because they really dent my belief that the majority of people are fundamentally decent even if we disagree about most things.

Helen

I completely agree with you, Hayley, it is such a shock to think that we've been making progress all this time - the US has just had its first ever black president! - and now suddenly we seem to have regressed about 50 years.

I still believe most people are fundamentally decent but I have a bit less faith in our ability to overcome our innate selfishness and think about what's best for everyone, not just ourselves. And yes, the racism that has been unleashed is frightening. What also troubles me is that a lot of people stand by and do nothing. Part of me understands - I am a coward too! I don't want trouble! - but if we're going to get through this we need to oppose it when we see it.

I don't know if you've seen this, but it's really useful on what to do if you witness harassment: http://maeril.tumblr.com/post/149669302551/hi-everyone-this-is-an-illustrated-guide-i-made

Jenny @ Reading the End

I don't know how convinceable the thoughtless crowd is. I really don't. Because oftentimes what they're being asked to do is to accept that they've systematically benefited (unfairly) from a world that has damaged (unfairly) the lives of many groups. People seem to truly loathe the idea that they've gained something without intending to, and the idea that they might lose power they've always had. Which, honestly, is what accepting the systems of racism and sexism require of us.

I dunno. That was very incoherent. I don't know what the world is going to be.

Harriet Devine

Excellent post, Helen. I've avoided politics for decades but Brexit and Trump have woken up all my dormant feelings. Like Hayley I have been and still am deeply upset by the way some people are behaving in the aftermath, and by the British press. I agree with you that people are fundamentally decent, but many are too easily swayed and too fearful of the unknown. I'm not giving up hope for the future, though, or trying not to.

Helen

It wasn't at all incoherent, Jenny, and it's an excellent point that's difficult to refute. My thoughts about all of this are very muddled and keep shifting about. I've rewritten my reply to you about 95 times. Sometimes I feel more hopeful than other times. And of course, I don't know a lot about the US and the situation there.

After the last hundred years, when we have seen improvements in the lives of women, POC, transgender and gay people in both our countries, many people now seem to think that we're all equal and we should now be quiet and grateful. Perhaps they've also forgotten that those hard-won rights can be taken away. They're the people who I'm calling 'thoughtless'. Some of them might argue that they have not benefited from the existing system either, though they haven't had as many odds stacked against them.

Like you, I don't know how convinceable they are, and I suspect that you're right about many and they will not want to be convinced. But some may. I have been: Young Helen was entirely thoughtless about these things and now I have become a great deal more aware, but I've had to do that awareness-raising myself, I've had to realise for myself that there's something to go looking for. In Britain at least, it's very easy to carry on without ever being really confronted with any of this.

As you say, the system reinforces racism and sexism and we can't change the system unless enough people see that and so we enter a vicious circle. But actually it seems that many people do want change of some sort. I think I saw a chart that showed a 16 per cent swing among lower earners away from the Democrats and to the Republicans: that's a lot of Trump voters who just a few years ago voted for Obama. Perhaps they saw both candidates as agents for change? This doesn't mean there's no racism but I think it does mean that it's complicated. What's worrying is if many people do want change, and Obama couldn't deliver it and Trump won't deliver it, where will they go from there?

I'm afraid that this response really is incoherent. But please, don't give up hope, Jenny! A big internet hug to you. And maybe it's a good moment to thank you for your splendid blog. I have learnt a lot from it (also laughed a lot). Thank you.

Helen

Jenny - coming back to add that I hope I'm not downplaying the role of racism in the US elections. I think that this is where thinking about Trump with Brexit doesn't work quite so well. But hope hope hope and don't give up.

Helen

Harriet - sorry, my reply to Jenny took so long to write that I have only just seen your comment. Thank you.

I definitely agree with you about Britain. In fact, if anything good is coming out of this, it's how much more politically engaged so many of us are becoming. I have taken too many things for granted, it seems.

Stefanie

I've learned a lot lately too. It hasn't felt all that good either. But it's like a dose of bitter medicine without the sugar and I have had far too much sugar anyway so it's a good thing.

After spending time reading the post election analysis it appears that a lot of people who voted for Trump (even ones who voted for Obama) did so because they saw in Trump someone who was not going to be business as usual. They saw someone who didn't talk down to them and promised them good jobs to replace the ones they used to have. Economics and personal need won out over Trump's racism/sexism and all the other isms. This of course is not the whole story but it is a big part of it. Clinton and the Democratic party failed to include the working class. Bernie Sanders warned them but they did not listen.

On the plus side, there is a big shake up going on in the Democratic party right now with people more of Sanders' ilk taking control. We'll see what happens. I am scared and worried about Trump as are lots of other people, and I'm pretty sure there will be lots of vocal outrage and action if/when he does anything racist/sexist, etc. Heck, there are anti-Trump protests happening across the country now and he hasn't even taken office yet.

Violet

I'm thinking about rejoining a major political party, after resigning my membership in disgust a few years ago due to my inability to accept some of the majority right-faction's policy decisions. It seems to me that most Western democracies have veered sharply to the right and we need to try to steer things back to the centre. I'm fairly far to the left on the political spectrum, but the minor parties that represent my political views don't have any chance at government, and some people on the far-left are as scary as people on the far-right! I think that maybe vast numbers of moderates need to 'infiltrate' the larger parties and try to effect change that way.

After my initial shock about Trump's win, I've calmed down somewhat. I'm still very concerned about what the concentration of power in hard-right Republican hands might mean for the rest of the world. I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens. Eventually, Trump's rhetoric and bluster will run smack bang up against reality. I don't think the media is helping matters any right now. There's a lot of speculation and scaremongering and gaslighting going on, and that's making people fearful.

Australia's unesteemed prime minister has been parroting some of Trump's ideas about 'media elites', and lowering company tax cuts, and talking about 'freedom of speech'(wanting to change our racial discrimination act so that people can say nasty things about 'not-us' people who are 'not-white.) It's totally sick-making.

One big problem, as I see it, is that people tend to be 'keyboard warriors' and express their outrage on social media, but they don't take the time to write a letter or make a phone call, which are both much more effective means of registering one's protest.

Sorry for the incoherent ramble. It's very hard to put my thoughts and feelings into words.

WHYYYYY?

Arggggghhhhh!

Make it stop!

I. Just. Can't.

Well.

Let's get on with it then.

Alright. *making a list of things to do*

Helen

Stefanie - yes, I think it's really important to remember that the majority of people did not support Trump and many of them won't let him have an easy ride. I hope that the Democrats do shake themselves up. The Left needs to do that in Britain too, and so far has abjectly failed, leaving the country with effectively no opposition - and whichever way you lean politically, that's a really dangerous state of affairs.

Violet - yes! Let's get political. Do you know, I've never even registered to vote in Belgium because voting here is obligatory and I've never felt 'qualified' enough to vote. But I'm registering now! I completely agree with your point that Western democracies are veering right and I think that those with two-party systems are the most vulnerable at the moment.

God, though. Every time I look at a newspaper I get wound up again.

Violet

Anger can be a great motivator for change, but I know what you mean about reading news articles. I don't take them very seriously, though. The media these days are mostly about polemics, advertising, and opinion. I tend to listen to BBC and NPR radio programs and podcasts. They have a more measured view of things, I think.

I've always been fairly political, but I might be becoming tiresome about it these days. I've heard a few mutterings about my soapbox tendencies in real life. :)

Helen

I think the BBC is about as balanced as one can reasonably expect anyone to be. I don't know anything about NPR, but I agree that there's a lot of clickbait and opinion out there.

It is hard NOT to be tiresome about it. It's important! People's lives matter, and politics affects them directly.

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