‘The deeply disillusioned, those intellectually apathetic to neo-liberal conservatism amongst us.’ Maybe not what one would expect when uncovering the core values of those promoting America’s revamped, yet still racist, alternative right. People’s fears, frustrations and anger are certainly at the forefront of far right-wing populist movements across the Western world including America’s ‘alt-right’ and Britain’s UKIP. These symptoms of a failing neo-liberal system that works only for some are born out of genuine discontent and should rightly be expressed within and outside of the political arena. That’s democracy. Nonetheless, I fear our response has us walking in the wrong direction, if progressive social reform is what you’re after. The political turmoil we are witnessing in America and Europe is the culmination of these symptoms after years of economic and social inequality, now outpouring before our eyes. In short, those who voted for radical alternatives to the status-quo such as Brexit and Donald Trump are crying out for change, regardless of what that change may be.
Those seeking change by such political means should not be so hasty and realise that straightforward solutions to complex problems are contrary to reason and belong in the ‘post-truth’ world. Of course one could argue that the left has failed to provide us with a real alternative to neo-liberal capitalism, and I would certainly agree with that. However, all too often in modern history have western electorates failed to see past the man advocating nationalism, proposing easy solutions and promising the return of greatness during times of hardship. Undoubtedly, the far-right has always had a way of tapping into the fears and frustrations of the masses. Indeed, only recently was Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign founded on stirring emotions of hatred and fear. As Oscar Wilde once said, “The emotions of man are stirred more quickly than man’s intelligence.”
Perhaps then, now more than ever we need a nudging reminder of where that path leads. The rise of fascism across Europe only eighty years ago saw prejudice against different religions, xenophobia, nationalism and anti-gay sentiments that concluded in, arguably, some of the worst atrocities ever committed by any human civilisation. Unfortunately, these pre-requisites for horror are rife once again across the western world, along with a background of economic crises and instability. Restraining from making parallels between the conditions that led to the rise of fascism in the past and those that have now led to the likes of Donald Trump would be damning as well as blind — as would referring to modern fascists as the ‘alt-right’. Let’s not allow mainstream media to frame neo-Nazis in such a manner. Let’s call them out for what they really are and stand up against their corrupted values.
As a more digressive and less apocalyptic thought, I remember quite clearly my history teacher back in early high school once told me that history runs in cycles. If something seems incredulous and radical right now, take a step back in time and see what similarities you find, then perhaps things start to make more sense. Certainly at the time, I politely disregarded this comment and swiftly returned to folding my paper aeroplane. Now I realise that there is hope. The left has beaten fascism before and we will beat this poisonous ideology again, whatever mask it tries to hide behind.
(Image courtesy of Back to the Future)