Friday, November 11, 2016

Has Fear Trumped Love?

It's been a while since I've blogged (!) I got locked out for ages, but the events of this week have spurred me on to get back in........

Still reeling from the result in the States this week I am reminded of the work I did on behavioural economics. The fact that people are more motivated by fear of loss than the prospect of gain. Any campaign that plays on people's fears, that focuses on the negative rather than the positive, whether we like it or not, will often be more effective than the positive campaigning we all crave.

For those who haven't read it I recommend Drew Watson "The Political Brain" - he goes into more detail about political motivation generally.

For most of my adult life I have believed that what happened in Nazi Germany couldn't happen again - and certainly not here. In a few short months that certainty has been challenged. The outpouring of hatred in the lead up to and post Brexit, the legitimisation of attitudes and behaviours that people previously would have been too ashamed to share openly, is very scary.

The fact that an openly racist, xenophobic, misogynist, sexist, sociopath could be elected to the most powerful role in the world makes me wonder what has happened to the values which should underpin democracy regardless of political persuasion. Decency, respect, honour, service. I have to come back to the power of fear in motivating people who would otherwise see themselves as decent, respectable and honourable, to respond to a narrative that blames the other, rather than blaming the real authors of their situation.

Since Brexit I have been horrified at some of the openly racist and xenophobic diatribe being vented daily, in the media, on radio phone ins and on the street. As someone who enjoys Stephen Nolan’s programme on 5 Live I have so often listened in disbelief at such attitudes being openly expressed. Recently I had to phone in after someone responding to our decision to take a few unaccompanied minors from Calais, said ‘we don’t want them here, the flotsam and jetsam of society’. When I got through they asked me not to quote him on the radio as they didn’t want such racist sentiments repeated.

So now I worry about what will happen to those who are ‘other’ in the US. Here we have seen a huge increase in Islamophobic and racist attacks. I also wonder how I would feel, perhaps as a Mexican, knowing that my neighbours had voted for someone who sees me as a rapist?

I know it’s not as simple as that, I know many people voted for Trump for other reasons that mattered more to them, such as wanting conservatives appointed to the Supreme Court, or hating Hillary so much Trump seemed the lesser of two evils. They may have done so holding their noses, but still - give legitimacy to the basest of human instincts.  

There is really no alternative to democracy, but we must surely recognise that in order to work it must be underpinned by values of decency, respect, honour and service to all. The alternative is the legitimised oppression of the minority by the majority, the weak by the strong, the poor by the rich.

With Trump in the West and Putin in the East, the rise of the far right (look how buoyed up Marine la Pen was by the result) in Western and Eastern Europe, we must all continue to do what we can to challenge a world view that has the potential to take us all back to 1939. To recognise that there is one race, the human race, to build bridges not walls. A friend once said ‘we must learn to live together or we will die together’, that sentiment has never been more true.