05.07.2017 12:00 PM

The best explanation of the victories of Rob Ford, Brexit, Donald Trump et al.

The answer was right there in front of me, ironically enough. Brilliant.

A vote for the National Front was of course a vote tinged with racism and homophobia. My father looked forward to the time when we would “throw out the Arabs and the Jews.” He liked to say that gay people deserved the death penalty — looking sternly at me, who already in primary school was attracted to other boys on the playground.

And yet what those elections really meant for my father was a chance to fight his sense of invisibility. My father understood, long before I did, that in the minds of the bourgeoisie — people like the publisher who would turn down my book a few years later — our existence didn’t count and wasn’t real.

…the National Front railed against poor working conditions and unemployment, laying all the blame on immigration or the European Union. In the absence of any attempt by the left to discuss his suffering, my father latched on to the false explanations offered by the far right. Unlike the ruling class, he didn’t have the privilege of voting for a political program. Voting, for him, was a desperate attempt to exist in the eyes of others.

“A desperate attempt to exist in the eyes of others.” 

Want to preserve democracy, and civil society? Don’t just follow people who think like you on social media. Don’t regard disagreement as treason. And don’t ever think there are more votes on Wall/Bay Street than Main Street. 

There aren’t. There’ll never be. 

2 Comments

  1. Kevin says:

    Very eloquently put. I’ll look up the whole essay later (the link takes me to a different place).

    That piece puts some things in better perspective. Some of my relatives in the Netherlands who support Geert Wilders, for example, and yet who are perfectly wonderful people. They support Wilders because they feel the free and inclusive nature of the country is being threatened, not because of who it is who is being blamed for the threat. The threat could come from anywhere (and has, in the past). So my relatives make their Cassandra warnings about Dutch society being changed, and are told to shut up, they are stupid (or racist) to worry about that, and they resent being shut up like that and so support Wilders.

    But then to what extent can someone then claim not to have any responsibility for the rest of the program? An uncomfortable question. Can you support a monster who, on the other hand, makes the trains run on time?

    I don’t think I’d ever be ok with voting for someone with such extreme views, and hoping only the most agreeable parts of the platform are implemented. “Wouldn’t be prudent.”

  2. John Mraz says:

    You still have your moments. I think i just got a little bit wet.
    jm

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