Migration – Emigration – Fleeing
Can't a democracy protect itself anymore?
One thing, that I’ve learned from our correspondence, is the insight, that what Europeans think is almost unavoidably one-sided and constrained.
But what does that mean for the election of Donald Trump to the American presidency?
Does it mean, that everything is not so surprising, in the sense of bad, lying, corrupt leaders being more the norm than the exception?
Or does it mean, that this is all just the beginning, meaning that the collapse of democracy, as I know it, will get way more dramatic?
Or does it mean, that all of us, who call ourselves liberals, should just catch our breath and understand, that politics is a fight for power, that people have different interests, and that you sometimes loose?
I really do not know; all I know is that the confusion is so profuse and widespread, for those who consider themselves to be on the right side, and that those on the other side, the gang around Trump, these people will start laughing over and over again whenever they think about how soft and vulnerable their opponents are.
On the other hand, it’s also important to see that they did not win, at least not in terms of the number of votes cast. And, to me, this captures the actual issue with this election.
This country, in which I often feel so comfortable, is a country in which the elections, which purport to be free and fair, are manipulated over many years so that the country functions like a corrupt oligarchy.
I was writing this a few years ago, when people, like the New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize recipient, Paul Krugman, said that the USA is no longer a democracy.
But now that the consequences are so obvious, it really is something else: Like in Wisconsin, where the Republicans have been redistricting the electoral map to great effort in order to get the outcomes they want, because as many poor and black people, and those are still often one and the same, vote in the same districts.
Or the difficulties many voters had in having to sufficiently identify themselves – which led to tens of thousands of people, primarily black and poor people, not being able to vote in one state, which Trump narrowly won.
These kinds of reports reveal the structural problems of this democracy, which is indeed still the second largest in the world. And I would like to know how you see it from the perspective of someone who lives in the largest democracy in the world?
The absurdity, that a billionaire with a cabinet of billionaires and insiders declares himself to be the savior of ordinary people and that many ordinary people seem to believe him, and in doing so have pretty clearly voted against their own interests – do you know this from India? Would you explain Modi’s victory in the same way?
And the idea that a democracy can’t protect itself from being transformed into something else by democratic means, into something authoritarian – is that the story of our time, from the USA to Europe and possibly also in your country?
Or is it different. Are the circumstances much more stabile and we, the well-minded people, just have to learn to better deal with defeats, being vigilant when oppression becomes too blatant, gathering strength for the next attack?
Is that how things go?
I’m interested in how you see this election, which some have explained as a revolt against globalization, which began on the left and has ended on the right.
I think that there’s something to this interpretation, albeit only if you’re into the pretty vague and impracticable concept of globalization.
Because, do we really know what we’re talking about when we say globalization? Or is it only an abstract concept that obfuscates how uncertain we are about it, how circumstances in the world are connected, and how changes in current and future circumstances will take place?
What the concept definitely does do, is describe a problem: The way in which, even to many on the side of the left, the course of events added up to the export of jobs and the law of a global economy as if it were natural law.
There’s nothing we can do, that was the motto, which wasn’t an answer. Now we’re hearing the answer from the most surprising direction. It’s aggressive, it’s driven by fear, and it creates fear.
For me, the lowest point of an American election abundant with low points, was the moment when Donald Trump was asked about Aleppo and the humanitarian crisis taking place there.
Aleppo, was his answer, Aleppo has fallen, and I don’t really care about that. I want to destroy ISIS, he said, that is my goal.
This is a tenet of post-human politics, in a post-human era, in which the principles of order, of security, and of the military come before the principles of human rights.
I would argue, that this stability won’t only be achieved at a high moral price, but that it’s also deceptive, because you can’t create order on top of injustice in the long run.
Aman, you know the contradictions of political arguments better than I do, I believe, you’re closer to the spirit of our times to a certain degree, I think our conversations have changed me, because I no longer surrender myself to pessimism as easily, I hope.
Like Barack Obama said recently: Roll up your sleeves, it’s time to get to work. There will always be opponents, it’s about never giving up, for working for what you believe in.
I hope you’ve been well. Tell me about you and Delhi and the air that people can’t breath. And then, dear Aman, tell me something beautiful.
As always, from my heart,
Cambridge, 5th December 2016