Beware the Blame Campaign
In an online business dictionary, it’s stated that the ‘alienation of co-workers will only result in a cycle of negative morale and decreased productivity; employers should work to ensure that all of their employees are being included by their peers’. It seems foolish to argue against such a logical and easily-interpreted line, but in many ways we seem destined to pursue a path of alienation in the aftermath of 2016’s political upheaval.
Much has been made by analysts and commentators of the similarities between the election of Donald Trump and the Leave vote in the UK’s EU referendum: The paper thin policies, the anti-immigrant rhetoric, the demagoguery of the campaigns’ frontmen and the inadequacy of the pollsters all collided with the disenfranchisement of an exploited working and middle class to herald a new era in western politics.
Even though Trump is not yet president, and the triggering of Article 50 in the UK still seems a long way away, the reality of the new political landscape already seems to have partially reined itself in as the leaders of the movements on both sides of the Atlantic have either spontaneously combusted (UK), or largely altered the rhetoric and campaign-speak that brought them to prominence (US).
While, for the moment, we (the citizens) still wade through a swamp of instability and insecurity, one thing is for certain: those who won these bitter campaigns are not going away and will saturate the newspapers and TV screens for a long time to come. It is too early to know whether they will be able to follow through on the sweeping changes that they guaranteed us, but if we as a society have learned anything it should be this: take nothing for granted.
The campaigns were similar, just as the economic circumstances arising out of the financial crash also mirrored each other from either side of the ocean. These are circumstances which also prevail for struggling workers in Italy, Spain, France and several other once-prosperous countries. The fact that well-known figures with extensive war chests won campaigns by promising prosperity and blaming a voiceless immigrant and refugee population should not come as a shock.
That they convinced a disaffected electorate to mobilise by attacking an establishment which largely failed on its own promises should not have been met with the incredulity that greeted the news when the results filtered through.
The incredulity has manifested itself in many forms… the markets panicked after Brexit, protests were staged in the immediate aftermath of both votes and much of the population even openly conversed about emigration. These reactions were to be expected from citizens who were led to believe by media and polls that the status quo would prevail.
There has been one other reaction, however, that is far more dangerous than any market fluctuation or despairing existential pondering.
Another shared characteristic from within the electorate has been for the losing side to direct their ire at the voters themselves. Across many media outlets, and particularly on social media, voters for BREXIT have been branded racists just as it can be heard that all Trump voters are uneducated misogynists, homophobes and bigots. These are the people who share the same offices, factories and neighbourhoods as those who voted for Remain and Hillary. These voters are so numerous, and spread across such diverse social, ethnic, gender and religious divides that to generalise them is to spectacularly miss the point and it will serve only to widen existing divides and stoke the fires of unrest.
The tremor of change which caused us to pause and lift our heads momentarily outside our echo-chambers should expose one thing: half of our society is out of touch with the other, and many feel left behind.
The only way to change that is not to return to the echo chamber and blame those whose children share the same schools as those on the opposing side but rather to re-engage and try to understand the desperation which prompted so many to vote for something which was so ill-defined and, to many, downright dangerous.
Returning to my trusty business dictionary, it is written that ‘alienation is caused commonly by factors such as a lack of involvement in even basic decision making, lack of human contact, little hope for betterment, and a feeling of powerlessness.’ Using various forms, the electorate themselves articulated that alienation was a motivating factor for voters of BREXIT and Trump.
It is a duty for those in the US, the UK and indeed here in Ireland to look at our own societies, to begin to understand and move beyond blame; lest we become alienated ourselves.
MIchael Quinn is an Account Executive working in PSG Plus