I had only just got over Britain’s vote to leave the European Union when the shock of a divisive reality TV star winning the most important position in the world stunned me.
Maybe this was predicted. The only constant in elections is that polls cannot be trusted so maybe we should’ve expected Donald Trump to be elected President and we should’ve expected Nigel Farage to ‘win’ with Brexit. Even at the 2010 general election polls predicted Nick Clegg was serious competition for Labour and the Conservatives – quite extraordinary for a – then – new MP so early in his career. Instead the Lib Dems didn’t quite stir the ballot box as much as they thought their poster boy could influence, but he made it as Deputy PM – suppose we can give him that!
But on to the present, it seems politicians who the media find divisive and regressive for modern, literate democracies are in fact swaying voters. Be it the largest democracy in the world; India, where Narendra Modi made it to PM. At the time the Western world saw his win as a step back for India because of his controversial history but the majority of the country (of over one billion people) backed him.
Likewise with Brexit – the media was convinced leaving the EU would be a catastrophe nobody in their right mind would vote in favour of. Even David Cameron was so convinced he had the public’s backing that he called for a referendum to shut-up the likes of UKIP supporters. And how sorry he looked on the morning of the Brexit result when he resigned, which to me proved he no longer understood the electorate or the demands of the – albeit small – majority. The result was so very close to 50:50.
And more recently, there is the race for the American presidential candidate. When Barack Obama won eight years ago, the world rejoiced. The first Black man in the world’s top job; now that’s what was seen as modernity, development, prosperity. Hopes were high for the first female president to break the record this year if Hilary Clinton were to win. Instead, a man who has no history in politics, is a TV reality star and managed to lose billions with his ‘business mind’ won the hearts of Americans by a significant majority.
This is the man who wanted to ban Muslims in America. This is the man who wants to build a wall between neighbouring Mexico. This is the man who was recorded making sexist comments. Yet he appealed to the Latino, Muslim and female voters. Why?
In my broadcast career I have worked for stations that appeal to various demographics – young, old, various races and ethnicities, various social groups. And the one common factor in all of these audiences is prejudice. More often than not, I have come across listeners and viewers – and maybe the loudest don’t speak for the majority – who are, quite frankly, racist. It could be a White person, Asian or Black – there has always been a sense of “them and us”, dislike for other communities with a tinge of threat felt by diversity.
And it doesn’t just stop at racism – sexism, casteism, homophobia, faith prejudice; I have come across it all no matter which broadcast outlet I have worked at. And even in my social circles – be it family, friends, colleagues – some people are overtly prejudice and some have an undertone of dislike for people who are different to them.
This leads me to question are we all racist? Do we dislike people who are different to us? Is there a fear of the other?
Quite often us journalists get wrapped up in our own liberal worlds where we decide right and wrong and judge others if they fall out of our parameters of right-mindedness. But maybe there is an innate insecurity in everyone of different communities, maybe they’re seen as a threat to personal development or their differences are ridiculed as being degenerate. This could explain why so many residential areas across the country are segregated; people tend to stick to their own, or why there has been an increase in reported hate crime.
It may seem like sweeping generalisations, and maybe I’m high on coffee on a 5.30am train to London but just think about it. How many of your relatives and friends have expressed distaste or looked down on people from other communities, the other gender, other ethnicities, sexual orientation, caste or class?
It’s a sombre thought but maybe the rise in political correctness and diplomacy was just a smokescreen to make us feel we’re educated, moral and progressive people. Now that the mist is clearing, the real us is exposed; raw and indifferent to what others think because of disdain in the political system and all that it brings with it – rising cost of living, employment challenges, NHS waiting lists, spiralling cost of a decent education.
I’m not entirely sure how to end but to question how many Donald Trumps and Nigel Farage’s I know. We may be in the 21st Century, living in the developed Western world but our mindsets may never evolve from cave man days of fight what you fear, or run away from it.