The worldwide rise of dictators-in-training (as in America’s Trump, Brazil’s Bolsonaro, The Philippines’ Duterte, Italy’s Salvini and Hungary’s Orbán) masquerading as the leaders of populist movements is the result of the head-on collision between fear of change and unchecked capitalism.
The UK is battling over Brexit, a fight brought on by working people convinced that their economic plights lay at the feet of (dark-skinned) immigrants – while ignoring the fact that even if every non-white, non-Brit disappeared tomorrow, they’d still be struggling.
France is besieged by yellow jacket-wearing working people lashing out against austerity measures and the loss of “traditional” French culture (read: dark-skinned immigrants probably colonized under another French tradition). Yet the moneyed elite aren’t being asked to tighten their belts, they just keep getting fatter and fatter.
Or here in the U.S., where Trump catapulted into office on the promise that he understood the working man. I’m sure that understanding derived entirely from the fact that he has been surrounded by such working men all his life – as servants.
And the two common threads to this twisted tapestry? Immigration and unchecked, brutal capitalism – that dynamic duo that, behind their masks, reveal the ugly truth about the economic and political hierarchy dominant in each of these societies.
Americans decry immigration from our southern border (the land of dark-skinned people, of course) yet whether unemployment is at 13% or 3%, Americans are not willing to perform the labor we rely on immigrants for. The issue isn’t really economic – all available data points to the fact that migrants, whether here legally or illegally, produce far more money for the country than they receive from the country.
The fundamental motivation for the sheeples’ disdain for immigrants, despite the fact that all of us, one way or another, sprung from immigrants ourselves, is fear. Fear of change. Fear of the browning of America, or [fill in the blank with your country of choice].
But let’s be real about something, shall we? Culture is never static. It changes. The Brits at one time were colonized by the Romans. The Anglos and the Saxons mixed it up for years. Culture can only be seen in a snapshot in time, ‘cause once you blink, it changes.
Ditto migration. People move. We have moved, as a species, from Eastern Africa and migrated around the globe. Name any country you want, trace the history of its inhabitants and you will read the story of migration, of people moving from place to place, forever.
Talk about the browning of America? What about the white-ing of America when the (more recently) native people were eradicated by Europeans? Things change. People move. Just like many white folks have been telling African Americans who bemoan the past and current effects of slavery – Get over it.
But now let’s look at the other head of that two-headed snake – capitalism. Wages have been stagnant in this country for forty years, yet prices continue to rise like an onslaught of marching armies. The wealth gap has become the Grand Canyon, with the top three richest men in America owning more wealth than the bottom half of the country.
The very nature of capitalism requires that there be rich people and poor people, and when capitalism has run amok in its naked and unchecked state, like now, the number of poor people must outnumber the rich by a factor of thousands. It is an unsustainable calculus – a brutal system of exploitation that cares nothing for people or planet or anything other than money, power, and the right to exclude the majority of the people from having either.
The enemy of the people is not other people, who, just like them, their ancestors and all people since time immemorial, want a better life. The enemy is, as always, that small cadre of rich men and powerful corporations who stand behind the curtain, pulling the strings of the system and making the rest of us dance to their tune.
Conveniently, these shot-callers pit one part of the population against another part, and it hardly matters which segment gets the bull’s eye painted on their backs. Back when the dominant group in this country came from England, the Irish were the boogeymen; then the Italians, the Greeks, the Polish and the Slavs; and then the Chinese, and the freed slaves (that was a particular favorite that’s been playing for far too long in my opinion).
Now the immigrants from the south are the designated targets who, by the way, used to call Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California their country in the not-so-distant past. Because the rest of us need someone to blame for the sorry state of our lives, and we dare not peek behind the curtain.