The world will want to point their fingers at the American people – are they stupid, mindless, unintelligent folk who have lost their senses? There is a certain appeal to this thinking. But it would be wrongminded.
Pointing our fingers at ‘those foolish Americans’ would be similar to Trump and his followers pointing theirs at African-Americans and Muslims as the cause of current political and economic problems in the United States.
Large problems exist in our societies, but let’s not get the diagnosis wrong. Incorrectly identifying the cause of these problems is currently leading to hate speech and demonisation, alienation, hate crimes, civil and police brutality and murder of those who are already marginalised in society.
A misdiagnosis will return us to an era defined by aggression, rage, hatred, insecurity and the destruction of our civilisation.
The problem is that we have a large amount of people who are hurting, broken, feeling abandoned, insecure, without work and experiencing turbulent social changes. They believe that Trump provides their best hope for change but his diagnosis of their problems is wrong and will lead to violence in an already tense environment.
Trump’s victory is the wrong cure for the wrong problem.
So, what’s the right diagnosis? Jeremy Rikfin expressed in The Empathic Civilisation that “when a child feels he is not loved as a person or that his love is not accepted, his maturation stalls, and he begins to develop aberrant [departing from the accepted standard] relationships and express pathological symptoms, including aggression, obsession, paranoia, and hysterical and phobic behaviour. All of these behaviours stem from a deep feeling of isolation and abandonment.”
These deep feelings of isolation and abandonment in children – and I would add adults – are key conflict drivers that have fully emerged during the course of this election and have led to discrimination against African-Americans, Muslims and other minority groups.
Many Americans are feeling abandoned. They blame governments and politicians who lie and manipulate for personal gain. Democracy is destroyed by this. And what about growing inequality by a highly exploitative and exclusive economic system?
In every state across America income inequality has risen since the 1970s after Roosevelt’s New Deal was dismantled by the top 1 percent. As Oxfam suggests, “Our economic system is heavily skewed in their [the top 1 percent’s] favour, and arguably increasingly so. Far from trickling down, income and wealth are instead being sucked upwards at an alarming rate.”
Income and wealth inequality has led to deteriorating access to education, health, labour market participation and representation in several institutions, including parliament. So the system is designed to exploit people and exclude large segments of the population. The economic system is broken because it no longer looks after everyone.
People feel isolated and abandoned; particularly those who have lost houses during the previous financial crises, or have to work multiple jobs, all paying less than the minimum wage, to feed their families. Real wages have stagnated or declined for the majority and the middle class is slowing disappearing.
People are crying out for a change, so they vote for someone who they believe represents this change, however incorrectly. This is happening in the UK with Brexit and Greece with votes toward the left of the political spectrum.
Trump has made his appeal to hurting people, abandoned by the system and desperate for change from the established political centre. The great American Dream has been slipping from their fingers from the 1970s and they don’t know why. The cause is not immigration or any other minority group being scapegoated. And Trump isn’t going to be the answer to their problems because he’s not addressing the real root causes.
Movements like Occupy Wall Street have their fingers pointed in the right direction: standing up to a system that has abandoned the majority for the few billionaires at the top. Countries need to be fairer in the distribution of wealth and income, and abandon the extractive and exclusive economic systems that lead to abandonment and aberrant relationships that will result in increasingly violent conflict.
I understand that there are other issues not addressed in this article. I have come to believe this is one major issue of several. I hope to write about the others at a later point.