The BREXIT/Trump phenomenon
In the Industrial Revolution of the 18th to 19th Century, when we saw a mass migration of population from the land into industrial cities, the common person did not have much say. The intellectual elite, and indeed the wealthy elite, could determine the outcome of millions of peoples’ lives in a dramatic and, in most cases, fairly horrible way. People were subjected to appalling working conditions, ghastly health environments and short lives, burdensome work and very little pleasure.
In the industrial revolution of today which is primarily technology-driven, we have the same dilemma of an enormous wealth divide. The wealth divide now is between those who have good education and to some considerable extent benefitted from the development of technology which in turn leads to a good lifestyle, versus those who have, for various reasons, been left behind. These are not just people with a poor education (although we find it somewhat sanctimonious that the BBC keeps telling us that it is uneducated whites in America who have predominantly voted for Trump). The people who voted for BREXIT and for Trump came from a great cross-section of society, and the things that I think that they share more than anything else are:
- A fear of the future
- A feeling that they have been left behind
- A great antagonism against the establishment – whether it be education, healthcare, government and planning etc.
I am reminded of my time as a district councillor when I was implored by the electorate to find out why our local council appeared so corrupt. At the end of four years, I was certain that there was no corruption in local government whatsoever. However, what was absolutely evident was the following:
- Complete arrogance in the way the electorate and the population were treated by the system.
- A complete shambles of activity by local government in implementing regulation, which led to appalling situations particularly around planning, which most people could see in their communities.
- A complete misunderstanding between local government and central government.
- The abuse by central government over local government and the corresponding total and utter confusion and thus degradation of anybody’s respect for local government and policy making in the community.
Because we are connected to the internet and because we can all very easily and very cheaply mine information around any subject matter, we are of course able to connect, communicate and, most importantly, rise up and vote in a way that we have never been able to do in the past.
The problem of course with the “internet of things” is that you can examine information to satisfy your prejudice rather than necessarily taking a reasonably balanced view from all sections of society.
The clever algorithm of the “internet of things” feeds on prejudice because of course the system picks up the sorts of things that people look for by interacting with and then simply feeding you with more of the same rather than providing you with a more balanced environment.
The last point is probably the most important part of this note. In other words, we do not subliminally realise quite how much the technological system is feeding our individual prejudices.
It is the same in the whole “internet of things” that we adopt the benefits of the internet in all sorts of ways; each and every one of us is benefitting as a consequence of “the internet of things”, and yet we do not understand that the corresponding trade-off is a very dramatic change in society in the way in which we live our lives, in what we do, how we employ ourselves and how we look after ourselves and ultimately in how we vote and interact with our political systems. But the “internet of things” also provides checks and balances and the challenge from the “internet of things”, whilst broadening people’s horizons and expanding their knowledge and understanding of different groups within society, will be to recognise the danger of subliminal support for prejudice.
There is increasing evidence that we live in silos of silent connectivity which allows prejudiced groups to develop in much the same way that people lived in the last industrial generation, whether in silos of ghastly factory slave-shops or in tiny minorities of wealthy elites living in Downton Abbeys!
It is to be hoped that the wealthy elite (not the materially wealthy but the intellectual elite) do finally understand that they cannot move forward unless they can bring forward the whole of society so we can all enjoy a better understanding of each other’s personal circumstances. If the “so called” educated and better off do not do this, then the alternative (which has happened for more than 6,000 years) will, unfortunately, manifest itself in massive social and physical dislocation.
The EU and it’s up-coming elections will be the next tests, and I don’t see any change in attitude amongst the ruling elite who seem to believe that more centralisation will win the day, even while BREXIT and the TRUMP victory clearly show that the people have no confidence in the old models of world politics and establishments.
We all know the outcome of the last disconnect between the haves and the have-nots resulted in two ghastly world wars. The world wars destroyed aristocracy; they killed millions of people and they dislocated society in such a way that we then eventually moved into the new world order that we (in Europe and America) have enjoyed with some peace and tranquillity since 1945. As with this recycling of all societies, we have now largely forgotten all the pain that we registered before the wars, and have become complacent and extremely challenged about the future, particularly those who, as I explained earlier, have been left behind.
Democracy, however, with all its faults, has enabled the less vociferous parts of the population to stand up and shout and make themselves heard. Thus, with the great benefit of the ballot box, the less well-off can now register their disquiet. I would suggest this may be an enormously positive way in which a more sophisticated and developed society will now move through this dramatic transitional period, with all its painful repercussions, into a new, bright dawn.
11th November 2016