In response to an FT article by Philip Stephens entitled ‘The populist right sweeps aside the left’
“The beginning of wisdom is that populism can be beaten only from the hard centre”
No. The beginning of wisdom is to ask an intelligent question. ‘How do we defeat populism?’ is not an intelligent question – it is a question that reflects one of the main reasons why ‘populism’ is gaining strength – I.E.: it voices the preoccupation of establishment politicians and their stenographers in the press with maintaining the status quo. It will not solve the underlying issues, nor will it address the totally valid concerns being expressed by populations across the west – in other words it won’t work.
We are facing the inevitable result of three decades of neo-liberal economic policies and neo-conservative foreign policies that have produced, albeit in simplified terms:
a) A hollowed out middle class and under-utilised working class in developed economies
b) A dispossessed and traumatised population of refugees and migrants from developing countries, many of whom have been bombed out of their homes by the arrogant and short-sighted foreign policies of the northern neighbours to whom they now flee
And what is the establishment response?
1. Increase the interventions overseas, or at least try to
2. Accelerate the drive for globalization, get those ‘free trade’ treaties through the door before it gets slammed shut
3. Demonise the backlash in the media – call it ‘populism’, ‘racism’, ‘xenophobia’, liken it to the thirties, and if you can get a mention of the little Austrian into the conversation, grab it with both hands (see Gideon Rachman for tips on how to do that)
This article, like the dozens that have preceded it, demonstrates the bankrupt nature of dualistic thought – right vs. left, wrong vs. right, us vs. them. It demonstrates how we got here, not how we move on.
To paraphrase Einstein - problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that created them…so…change the question. It’s not what we think that needs to ‘shift’; it’s how we think.
So, if you are genuinely interested in shedding light on these issues Mr. Stephens, change the questions you pose. Try these for a start:
(i) What are the underlying issues being expressed through this backlash against establishment governments?
(ii) What existing policies have led to the aggravation of those issues?
(iii) What effect has our response thus far had on the severity of the backlash?
(iii) How can we respond in a manner that demonstrates that we’ve:
a) Got the message
b) Intend to do something about it, other than fight it at the ballot box and in the media
Or…carry on trying to attack the symptoms, and prove, yet again, that historical change doesn’t come through the establishment, it comes despite it.