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The Brazen Hijack Of The Anti-Globalization Agenda

18/08/2016 7:09 PM IST | Updated 23/08/2016 8:32 AM IST
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The world is going through a transition that is akin to the global change set into motion post World War II. The effects of the 2008 economic crisis linger, with another slowdown expected. Inequality is rising in developed and developing economies and a surge of events are making us predict a world which is protectionist, anti-immigrant and contractionary in nature. It's indeed a tipping point for globalization -- however, the moot question is this: is the anti-globalization movement headed in the right direction? Isn't the divisive and intellectually bankrupt nature of this movement the exact thing the world wanted to avoid in the first place? At the heart of these questions lie two key events: Brexit and the phenomenon of Donald Trump's political rise in the United States.

The rise of the majoritarian voice is a legitimate democratic movement, but its tone and tenor is something to worry about.

Now, the primary reason for the rise of the anti-globalization movement has been widening inequality-- a fairly justified argument considering the numbers. However, the hijack of the anti-globalization movement by Trump and others of his ilk is bound to create significant social changes.

The rise of the Trump phenomenon highlights two basic things -- the first is the rise of the majoritarian White voter who is "inspired" by the Trump's bravado. The second is the growing idea of social protectionism within the Western world. The restrictions on immigration and the proposed "ban" on Muslims into the US by Donald Trump is a sign of times to come. A direct result of these events is going to be a far more constricted world, with the majoritarian communities coming together in their fight to retain their political and economic space. By pandering to the negative feelings of the broader majoritarian communities, people like Trump are just scaling up the rhetoric and creating a situation that alters the fundamentals of the neoliberal world. My issue is not with the rise of the majoritarian community -- in a democracy, it's bound to happen and rightly so if that is the will of the people. My issue is that these choices are not being defined by rational argumentative thinking but by impulse and fear-mongering -- two factors that could lead to the rise of a radical leader. The rise of the radical majoritarian voice could trigger similar phenomena across many other countries, which is something we are already seeing today, for example in the rise of Le Pen in France, and the surge in the radical right in other European countries.

The rise of the majoritarian voice is a legitimate democratic movement, but its tone and tenor is something to worry about. The purpose doesn't seem to be limited to reinstating the nationalist sentiment of these respective countries or addressing core concerns of globalization, but to also overthrow other communities within the broader social framework. Whether it is Trump or events such as Brexit, they fundamentally target the plurality of minority communities in their respective countries. How this is done could range from building a wall to banning Muslims to curtailing immigration of members of a particular community into the borders of the country.

Whether it is Trump or events such as Brexit, they fundamentally target the plurality of minority communities in their respective countries.

According to an analysis on the Brexit vote, "across the 20 authorities where support for leaving the EU was strongest, only 16 percent of voters have a degree, only 23 percent are professional, less than 5 percent are non-white, nearly 20 percent are pensioners and the median income is £18,000."

The Brexit vote, in essence, is viewed as an anti-immigration vote dominated by working class families and the elderly. The tone and tenor of the Brexit campaign itself was aggressive and exclusionary in nature, albeit not as abrasive as Trump. Today, immigration is the target, but it's possible that tomorrow it will extend to a more religion- or race-based segregation. The ironical aspect of all this is that the voters have a legitimate argument in terms of a lack of jobs, opportunity and alienation by the political class. However, the people who are driving their movements are perhaps the worst that you can see at the helm of affairs.

Does this mean that one shouldn't be against globalization in its current form? Of course not. There are numerous ways to disagree with the establishment and mount a democratic and plural offensive from a policy standpoint. A classic case in point is Bernie Sanders. While Sanders might address largely the same population as Trump, his approach and manner is reflective of maturity in political discourse. At the recent Democratic convention, most of the policy framework going into the general election reflected Bernie Sanders's influence. Whether it's the increase in minimum wage to $15 or the broader push against the big banks, there is an impact that was created even though he had completely opposing views to the Democratic presidential nominee Hilary Clinton.

There are numerous ways to disagree with the establishment and mount a democratic and plural offensive from a policy standpoint. A case in point is Bernie Sanders.

I would have been far more secure if modern day Europe had shifted towards that direction -- a direction that is less raucous, less divisive yet more combative on the policy front. A more mature counter-offensive is the need of the hour to address the gazillion issues that globalization has raised -- what is needed is a concrete rebuttal from a policy and social standpoint. Such a counter-offensive is one that would be sustainable in the longer term both, for the individual countries and the world at large. On the other hand, the counter-offensives raised by likes of Trump and others in Europe are more obstructionist and are pandering to the prejudices of individuals.

In conclusion, one wishes that Trump (and others of his ilk) would move towards a more policy-based approach as he gears into the general election. If he were shrewd, he would perhaps realize that the issue is very much alive – it's a question of taking it up in a more structured and inclusive manner to the broader American public. Perhaps only time will tell where all of this will head. In the meantime, the question to Brexit supporters and Trump cheerleaders is this -- despite your legitimate economic arguments, are you being led by the right people into the world that you seek or is your mission being hijacked? All evidence suggests the latter more than the former.

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