We are often reminded that democracy and its outcomes must be respected, especially when we don’t necessarily appreciate the outcomes. Dictators are harder to convince of this truth though. However, the world order that so many accepted is that democracy, regardless of the results, must be valued. After all, it’s power to the people, right? So, this “truth” must be true even after Donald J Trump was elected to the office of President of United States of America.
Of course, there is a shock factor to the realisation that the world, the world we thought we knew, has shifted or changed. The truth though is that the world had already changed while we were all sitting around waiting for salvation or for heroes to arrive on the stage. Yet, we remain shocked that more than 61-million Americans believed in the message of Trump enough to elect him into office and it still stings. Trump is not an apparition but rather, like our own Jacob Zuma, is reflective of our societal fractures and our worst impulses. Trump is not simply a message of fear, hatred and “alternative facts” but rather this is the new normal – the new abnormal.
Shock and disbelief will only get us so far. It would be easy in the onslaught of this madness to cower in ambivalence, apathy and shock. On the flip side, we are also outraged and motivated to confront the new abnormal of a world that is unhinged. It was never simply a message of populism, fear, xenophobia, hatred or the antithesis of “our better angels”. This was a platform that reflects the shifting and crumbling world. It would be easy to get lost in the madness but this is a reminder of what happens when we allow complacency and acceptance of the status quo to capture us.
We have been captured. The world we live in is deeply troubled – it is fractured in ways that we do not fully understand. There remains no real solution to how we confront inequality or poverty. Our world order needs to be reimagined. The ripples of people like Trump can be seen across the globe. This is not simply about isolationism and protectionism but is a dangerous new world in which nothing is certain. The glaze of despair from the events of November last year has finally been revealed and now we all have to confront the reality. We may have been woken from our own ambivalence. We only need to look at the efforts to confront this despair – in airports, on street corners, in town halls and on squares, on inauguration days – but this is not enough.
It will not be enough to march on the National Mall or in airports or to seek justice in courthouses. South Africans have witnessed and experienced the challenges with trying to confront and hold Mr Zuma to account. Some have tried to march, some have written opinion pieces, some have taken to the airwaves, some have used our courts to hold him to account yet Mr Zuma still is President of the Republic. Our own experiences should be a warning to the many Americans who are trying to deal with a world that is now dominated by the unpredictable Trump. It will not be enough to simply protest. It will not be enough for the media to call him out on all of his “alternative truths”, also known as doublespeak.
What is clear is that our efforts to confront this new abnormal must be rooted in our collective efforts. It will not be enough to take to social media or to rant in our own echo chambers – we will need to take the argument higher than that. We will need to rise above this noise and to do so we will have to accept that we are broken.
Our solution cannot be rooted in silos but must instead seek to inspire a new coalition (of the willing, of those who are woke and of those that are impatient). Trump, and people like him, are in positions of power and the only way to challenge them is to build new coalitions of real power. That coalition can be spurred on by the protests currently under way, by the voices that challenge the status quo, by the LGBTI community, by the woke, by those in and aligned to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, but mostly it must be driven by the people. After all, if we are ever going to take back our world then we must let the people truly govern.
All of this will require a co-ordinated effort if we are ever going to shape a new world order that is the corrective answer to the bile of an unhinged Trump era. However, to quote Trump, we must “think big”, especially if we are ever going to change anything. We have a duty to do so. We cannot simply stew in our anger and take to social media when Trump enacts and unleashes his outrageous beliefs on the world. The new normal must be confronted before it is all too late. DM