Who We Are

Congratulations to American voters on making Vladimir Putin the second-happiest man in the world today. And they are owed a debt of gratitude by the British Government too: no longer is there a need to worry about how to manage our departure from the EU, when the new US President will have blown up the world before Brexit has to be enacted. But, as Chaucer said (well, kind of) many a true word is spoken in jest, and I’m only joking. Aren’t I?

To my untutored, inexpert eye there are a number of similarities between the US election vote and the UK referendum. The main one is that both seem to have been used by their electorate to register a protest vote against the status quo, against a perceived ruling political class that has moved away from supporting the ‘hard-working people.’ Be careful what you wish for! Many politicians are vain, self-seeking creatures, interested primarily in their own ambitions, and the next four years will tell how little Trump – who is a businessman with no political experience at all – actually knows or even cares about the disaffected people whose vote he has conned out of them.

It happened here too: commentators have remarked that those who ran the Leave campaign in the UK referendum didn’t expect to win, and there remain doubts about the motives of many of them. Do you seriously think that Boris Johnson chose to support Leave after many years of being pro-Europe simply because he thought it was right? I don’t. But they did win it, in an outcome that surprised them as much as the rest of us. Is Trump now finding himself in the same situation? Only time will tell, but if he governs along the same lines on which he has campaigned, it won’t only be the US that has reasons to be fearful.

What concerns me most about both election campaigns, as well as all the lying and bullying, is the appeal to a part of the human psyche that is deeply worrying. In the UK, the vote was won, to my eyes, on two key lies: firstly, the mythical £350m per week figure that the Leave campaign claimed we were paying the EU, and would add to the budget for the National Health Service, and secondly the unsubstantiated fear they engendered around the prospect of ‘mass immigration,’ the fear of foreigners. I don’t recall them calling foreigners criminals and rapists, but they didn’t stop far short of this. What this did was to bring out the far right from underneath their moss-covered stones, and enable them to feel in some way empowered, to feel that people shared their abhorrent views. A bit like the KKK endorsing Trump’s candidacy. Sadly, enough of us bought this view, and the aftermath of the Referendum vote was a huge increase in the number of racist incidents that were reported, even a racially motivated murder in the town I used to live in – a man was set upon just because thugs overheard him speaking his own language, not English. You only have to watch one news bulletin to see how much nastiness and hatred there is in the world, and I don’t just mean the nasty, sneering way that Trump interrupted Clinton in the debate to call her ‘a nasty woman.’ Pot. Kettle. Black. I really hope that in the forthcoming months Trump surrounds himself with people who know how to govern, and who won’t be as thin-skinned and extreme as he appears to be. It isn’t as though the American people can point a finger at him and tell him he’s fired, is it. Not till 2020, by when I hope they have all been blessed with perfect hindsight.

With the likes of ISIS/Daesh and Boko Haram, on the one hand, together with the rise of racist far right parties like AfD in Germany and the Front Nationale in France (and to a lesser extent UKIP in the UK), it is evident that extremism is becoming an ever more integral part of the 21st century world. That the political parties who espouse such causes can garner significant voter shares is terrifying. Are these voters all so disaffected with mainstream politics that they are prepared to ignore what these parties stand for? Or, worse, are the parties tapping into a racism and nastiness in us that has lain dormant until it was in some way legitimised? What kind of world are we living in? What kind of people are we? Are we really all so racist and insular, so protective of what we believe to be our birthright that we won’t allow others to share it? Are we really all so uncaring about others who may need our help? Is this really ‘who we are?’

I know that the picture I’m painting here is very negative and one sided and this is intentional, to make my point. I don’t like the way political events are turning out, and I suspect that many others don’t either. From my blog and the interactions I have here with people, and from the many blogs I have the privilege to follow and read, I know that there are many out there who do all that they can to help others and to spread a message of love and care. I just wish the world was run by people like that!

The title for this piece is a song by Imagine Dragons, which kind of sums things up for me today. It was included in the soundtrack to the Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie and later added to the deluxe versions of their album Smoke + Mirrors:

As they say in the song, it’s all uphill from here.

32 thoughts on “Who We Are

  1. Clive June 6, 2020 / 10:33 am

    Reblogged this on Take It Easy and commented:

    I’ve been spending a fair bit of time recently looking back over my blog, doing some housekeeping and revisiting old posts. I’ve made some small – probably invisible – changes to improve things: I’ve tinkered with the menu contents and order, and given my About Me page a long overdue trim and tidy. Having regularly recycled earlier posts I was struck by how many I hadn’t done that with, for a variety of reasons. But when I read this one again it felt like it was reaching out to me to revisit it. The time felt right.

    I originally wrote this the day after the 2016 US Presidential election. If you recall, this took place just under five months after our referendum on membership of the European Union. As I remarked at the time, both of these votes were seen as surprise outcomes and I shared my disquiet at how they had been achieved and at what they might mean for the futures of the UK and Europe on the one hand, and of the US and the World on the other. Subsequent events have shown, I think, that I was right to feel apprehensive.

    The current coronavirus pandemic has, rightly, occupied a great deal of news coverage in recent months, but this has perhaps enabled other important issues to somehow become sidelined. Here in the UK the main news item for the past four years has been our departure from the EU – what has become known as ‘Brexit’ (how I detest that word!). We did finally leave the EU on 31 January and are now in what I believe to be a deliberately impossible timetable to negotiate a trade deal with the EU, let alone resolve the multitude of other issues which need to be determined: little matters like policing, security etc. The deadline for agreeing an extension to this is rapidly approaching and our government isn’t showing any public signs of even considering this as a practical option: this just reinforces the view of cynics like me that they have always wanted a ‘hard Brexit,’ with all the damage that will cause to our economy and ongoing relations with Europe. Again, the cynic in me thinks that maybe the coronavirus will get the blame for this.

    Serious though that is, it pales into insignificance alongside what has been happening in the US. After all the divisive negativity of Trump’s election campaign, it appears to me that he has spent the past three and a half years following the same path of hatred and division. The scenes we have seen this past week have been particularly horrific but they are just the tip of the iceberg. The damage he and his policies have caused to his country is incredible, and I still find it mystifying that anyone can support this abomination.

    The greatest crime both of Trump’s campaign and presidency, and of the pro-Brexit campaign and subsequent machinations, is – as I said in the original piece – the divisions they have caused between people. We weren’t born racist or hating other people: we were taught that. Having governments who fan the flames of these divisions is unconscionable, but that is where we are. I titled the original piece after a song by the band Imagine Dragons and included the lyric video for it to illustrate my point. I’ve just watched it again and, in the light of recent events, it feels chillingly prophetic. It does indeed seem that this is who we are, or have become, but is it really who we want to be? I don’t, and I hope there are enough who share that view to help bring about the changes we need in order to do better.


      • kelleysdiy December 4, 2016 / 9:53 pm

        haha…not much of a selection for president…very sad indeed!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clive December 4, 2016 / 10:01 pm

        No it wasn’t. You’d think a country that size could find two worthy candidates, wouldn’t you!


  2. joanneeddy November 11, 2016 / 3:28 am

    I’m not sure how many Trump supporters are as bad as it would seem they are because of their choice. I am hoping they aren’t and that there can be some meeting of minds. What I am also hoping is that it is not only about who we are…and maybe some Trump people will say no to the bigotry…but also that it is about who we can be and who will will choose to be. WE can stand up for our values, resist the forces of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-immigrants. We can stand up and say No, and we must do it over and over for four years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive November 11, 2016 / 1:35 pm

      That’s exactly right, Jo. I just hope that once the reality of what he has done hits him he realises that the excesses he has stirred up need to be calmed down. Maybe they will take his lead then. Your country is far, far better than the morons who have slavishly followed his campaign lead.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jan Erickson November 10, 2016 / 1:39 am

    Clive, you said it perfectly.. my heart is so heavy right now..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive November 10, 2016 / 7:57 am

      Thanks Jan. It feels like Brexit all over again, only much worse. I just hope it won’t be as awful as we fear.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Osyth November 9, 2016 / 4:19 pm

    I wrote a couple of pieces earlier in the year that spoke of being careful what you wish for …. being British by birth I was absolutely stunned when I awoke in June to the Brexit result. I am equally stunned as I sit here in my corner of New England today. From December I will be back home in France just in time to see what unfolds in the presidential election there. I can predict that it will be a right wing victory how far right remains to be seen. What is so troubling is that immigration is being touted in all three countries as the root of all evil. For disenfranchised, desperate and ill-educated people that message is bound to morph into racism. And THAT is very very troubling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive November 9, 2016 / 4:29 pm

      Absolutely right. And with it comes the mob rule mentality of the thugs who attach themselves to the right wing. The most worrying thing is that politicians’ self interest blinds them to this reality, until it is too late and the damage has been done. Not that I was there, but I studied the 1930s in history and there are worrying similarities.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth November 9, 2016 / 4:59 pm

        Precisely. It would be nice to think that we might learn from history (particularly such recent history) but it seems that the greedy and self-serving will always see the opening and grab it with both hands and the masses get swept along until it’s too late. One must hope though that there is hope that sense will prevail. And I never stop hoping – its a rule.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clive November 9, 2016 / 5:04 pm

        We never do seem to learn from history, do we! But you’re right – if we give up hope we have nothing.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Still the Lucky Few November 9, 2016 / 2:58 pm

    I woke up to the news that DT won (in a landslide), and our corner of the world (Canada), even more than yours, is in a dangerous spot. I have been up since 4:30 reading blogs and newspaper articles in the hope that I can understand the underpinnings of this ‘movement’. Hopefully I can get it together enough to post something about it in my regular post on Sunday morning. I know there is no positive side right now, but we will all get through the day, and through the week, and so on…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive November 9, 2016 / 3:10 pm

      I worry that, in four years time, we’ll still be looking for the positives in this. And since our Brexit vote it would appear that you couldn’t seek respite here, for fear of pushing up the immigration figures. The world is broken, and in need of more than tape or glue to fix it. Looking forward to your post 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Claremary P. Sweeney November 9, 2016 / 2:53 pm

    Perfectly said, Clive. We appear to be people who do not learn from history, aren’t we? And as you’ve said to me, “This can’t end well.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive November 9, 2016 / 3:07 pm

      Sadly, Clare, we don’t. There’s a parallel between him and Hitler, both elected in the first place. I just hope history doesn’t repeat itself too much.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. robjodiefilogomo November 9, 2016 / 2:07 pm

    The funny thing is if you look back in history—politics has always been this way!! You have to wonder why—power. greed? Or just pure craziness?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clive November 9, 2016 / 2:11 pm

      Yes, those have always been there, but I don’t think racism and hatred have always been a part of it. Except for Hitler, who also came to power initially by an election.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Stevie Turner November 9, 2016 / 12:52 pm

    I can see Ian Dury standing there quite rightly saying ‘Reasons to be fearful; one, two, free…’

    Liked by 3 people

    • Clive November 9, 2016 / 1:03 pm

      Funnily enough I was thinking of using that as the title, but then remembered the song was Reasons To Be Cheerful. Didn’t really fit!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Clive November 9, 2016 / 12:22 pm

      Sadly it would appear so. The world is becoming a horrible place.

      Liked by 1 person

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