To the rest of us, the Trump supporter is easy to see. A racist, sexist wriggling mass. However, the more we draw them in caricature, the more likely his ilk will return to power.
The election of Donald Trump has been an altogether zeitgeist-shattering event. For what I would call the largely-educated city-based societies, the idea was frankly astounding that Donald Trump would run at all, let alone get to where he has.
On the face of it, he’s a habitually lying, sexist and arrogant person, and has drawn a huge amount of scorn for being as such.
But this isn’t about him, it’s about the forces and people that propelled him to where he is, which is far bigger and more crucial. Amidst the current revelations about his increasingly illegal behaviour and what seems at this stage quite likely collusion with Russian interests, it still is worth noting that these don’t make up the core of the issues at hand. Donald Trump is a manifestation of something else, and when he’s gone, that something else will still remain, and need to be looked at.
There’s a point quite well elucidated in Amy Chua’s book, Political Tribes, that is the schism in what we would call “white” western society. This is the separation between affluent white society and the much larger component of working class white society, particularly in the US but all over the western world. There has been a massive upsurgence of movements and protests taken in the past couple of decades that, quite correctly, illuminate the criminal and discriminatory things done by affluent white society against virtually all minorities and women (not really being a minority). To be quick to the point with this, these movements have been aimed at the white, heterosexual people in power, and appropriately the exclusionary boys club has been largely dismantled over time. Not entirely, but in large part, thanks to movements ranging from civil rights in the ’80s up to modern movements such as #MeToo.
But, what has occurred is that in many cases these movements have been hijacked on the peripheries by people who effectively start to call white, heterosexual society itself an entirely dominant and privileged class. Now in some senses, this is correct, but in many others, when you look beyond the fabulous gated communities and rich suburbs of the elite and into the derelict working towns of Michigan and Louisiana, you see a massive separation. The reality is that the majority of “white” society in the United States is in these working-class areas where jobs are minimal, opportunity is scarce, educational institutions are feeble and drugs are plentiful.
Now the problem occurs here, where you have millions upon millions of white, working class Americans attempting to eke out a living and unable to find work, finding themselves vilified for decades in the public eye. When they’re born in almost entirely white areas and spend their lives unable to find work, it creates a schism when they read that women and minorities are being shoehorned into companies for the sake of diversity. I’m not challenging the validity of diversifying companies, but we have to acknowledge that despite our perceptions that we’re correcting an injustice, we’re also exacerbating the schism between privileged and unprivileged society.
Globalisation has caused a great deal of suffering in the more affluent states, as a huge number of working class people across the west have been displaced by automation and offshoring (far more the former – despite perceptions), and now amidst their economic and personal turmoil, are being vilified in the media.
Also on The Big Smoke
I would note that this has become massively compounded with the introduction of the Internet and meme culture, as it has become exponentially easier to find echo chambers for our own groups, and immortalise the very worst of our opposites in memes that verify and justify our behaviours. In another article, I wrote that I tried to illuminate this death of empathy that’s followed our wholesale embrace of simplification. Twitter and memes have done more damage to advance discourse than likely anything in history beside extreme censorship.
These are the people who are angry about political correctness and affirmative action, as much as those things aren’t the true causes of their strife. The true cause of what they are perceiving is the continuous vilification by what I would call the privileged western society of the sea of “have-nots” who populate a once extremely industrious and labour-intensive economy, which has now turned very quickly into a modern, technologically advanced service economy. How many movies can you list where the bad guys are the white, Christian townsfolk in the US heartland? How many of those people do you imagine actually feel even slightly privileged? For the 18% of all white people in West Virginia for instance, who live below the poverty line, I doubt it’s very many.
It is worth noting that the statistics on African Americans below the poverty line are much greater in almost every state, but that does not in any way alleviate the perception created by greater western society in these enormous numbers of white-majority areas, where absolutely everyone is suffering and yet only the white people are being singled out for public scorn.
I would describe myself as left wing, and a massive proponent of movements such as #MeToo, but just recently it came out that Asia Argento, who was a part of that movement, assaulted a minor and paid for their silence. Now it is vital, crucially vital, that we not become prideful and blind about these events, because this is the exact behaviour that the movement is meant to challenge. This is what should be punished, along with the Weinsteins. There can be no filter for gender. Both the right and the left have individuals and subgroups at their fringes who promote violence and extreme behaviour, but it is up to us to not only distinguish our opposites from their fringe, as it is for us to detach from our own.
We must separate from the extreme fringe that blames white society and people in a carte blanche manner. We must always seek to pull apart the bad from the good, and be precise, surgical with our condemnation. We expect the same from our opposites, who farcically label everyone on the left a communist. We must accordingly acknowledge that the entire right is not a paradoxical hybrid of extreme neoliberalism and Nazism.
Because if we continue to allow and enable the vilification of a suffering majority, we’re going to continue to find ourselves with Donald Trumps. Let’s please do what we can to make sure there is only one Trump, and to see the people behind the banners who we’ve largely been ignoring, if not vilifying, for decades.