When I look around me, the world starts to frighten me more and more. I’m not becoming afraid of muslims or immigrants, but of fellow citizens. What gets to me is the ignorance, xenophobia, the fear of what’s different, and hatred towards others. People without much knowledge or intelligence, who keep on saying that, for some undefined reason our western society and culture is superior to all others.
Over the last fifteen years populism has grown. The public judges politicians by their appearance and wit, rather than their ideas. They say what the people will hear, even if it’s the complete opposite of their actions. Two examples are Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Donald Trump in the USA (strange coincidence: they both have peroxide blonde hair).
The great danger with these populist politicians is that they are not the cause, but just a symptom of the problem. They cleverly respond to he negative, but unfounded gut feeling and fear of the masses. They also know that acting like a clown scores with the media. It’s more interesting for them to aim camera and microphone at a joking jester, than it is to show a serious but dull politician.
Some people I say that both saw the seeds of hate. But I think they mainly fertilize and harvest the fear of the people. Both demagogues, who act only out of their own selfish interest. They ridiculize and mock facts, by substituting them for their own sound-bytes. They try to let the public believe that their welfare is the main goal; by making false promises and using minorities as a scapegoat for all troubles. Like a rat catcher that lures his victims in with enchanting music.
Over the course of history we have seen movements like this, but it never turned out well. As humans we like to listen to politicians who tell us they will bring prosperity and fortune. All we’ve got to do is give them the power and they will care… The truth is that this most often ended in war, hunger and bloodshed. The killing of millions of innocent victims; Jews, Native Americans, Aboriginals, Armenians, people from Africa, India and Indonesia. Just because they were on the wrong side of history; a different faith or ancestry.
The populist politicians remind me of bullies at the schoolyard. Everything they do is taking out someone because he or she is different, and trying to force them to fit in. Or to humiliate them to feel better themselves, often because of their own feelings of insecurity or inferiority. They blame one minority (muslims, refugees, immigrants, etc.) for all the troubles in the land. Naming them parasites or ‘luck-seekers’ (just show me one European or American who isn’t looking for a bit of luck in his life).
It’s a misconception that history repeats itself. But there are analogies. The ones I see now aren’t pleasant. They remind of the thirties, years running up to the second world-war. The rise of Hitler in Germany, and other fascist movements in other European countries and even America.
A great example of this mechanism is “The Wave“, an experiment executed in 1967 by history teacher Ron Jones, on a school Palo Alto, California. A couple of movies were made about it about it.
I hope we can counter this scenario. But that will need all our involvement. A democracy stands or fails with an informed, well thinking citizen. If you don’t know what to vote for; don’t vote. But not voting also means you don’t complain about what the politicians decide. Voting is a right, a privilege. But it also brings responsibility, towards yourself and others. The responsibility of taking care, listening critically, being well-informed and THINKING for yourself, instead of taking the opinion of someone else for granted.
A couple of people I know have a loud mouth and strong political views. They are the ones moaning and endorsing the opinion that ‘our land’ and ‘our culture’ are threatened by the ‘tsunami of refugees’. But some of them are also the ones who refuse to vote, because they say it’s useless… WHAT?..
Preventing history from repeating itself begins here, in our own house, in our own minds. And you may call me crazy, an idealist or both. That’s fine. I would rather be an idealist than just plain ignorant. It’s easy to have a loud mouth and start a fight. But it’s much harder to achieve peace. I hope we will all try to choose the latter.