On Trump, populism and our future

I’m still quite surprised at the level of denial and misguided criticism there is around Trump and, broadly, around the increasingly growing populism. Trump is a symptom, one that was first ignored, that was next incorrectly treated, and that is now being misdiagnosed. Trump has become a problem as he has become the US President, but still he is not the problem. The “disease” for which he is a symptom won’t go once he leaves office, unless its faced and treated appropriately.

The scream for a change is not new: Obama himself was a sort of outsider when he won in 2008. He was a politician, sure, but not one of the big shots, and he wasn’t given much chance of winning. He built up his base through grass roots funding using social media. His mottos were the same—in spirit—that move Trump supporters: hope, change, and yes we can (as in “yes, we can overcome establishment’s elitism and power.”) The difference between that election and this one is that now there were no good leaders, save for Mrs. Clinton but she is too closely associated (and rightly) to the establishment.

Populism wasn’t just an issue of the Republicans primary. Mr. Sanders played the same role in the Democrats’ primary, only he wasn’t given much of a chance to compete (and even so he managed to give a few headaches and scares to the party leaders.) Populism isn’t just an issue only in America either: all over the world an increasing number of bells are ringing.

The world is changing fast and deeply. Lots of people are being affected; many in a positive way, a lot in a negative way. The old bourgeois vs proletarian antagonism is turning into digitalians vs analogicals, and the divide is increasing. At the same time there seems to be a return to the Belle Epoque with enormous riches going to luxurious projects and sumptuous consumerism, and lots of power and money going to the hands of a very little elite. There is also indifference and lack of empathy from the ones favored for the rest. Unlike in the early 20th century, you can now see in great detail the well-being of ones (and their misdeeds) and the suffering of others. Still this seems to bring contempt from the ones (specially from their elite) and an increasing anger and frustration from the rest.

Change is not the problem. Trump is not the problem. Lack of leadership is the problem. Obama showed the kind of leadership people are calling for: independent, determined, offering clear projects with social impact and, last but most important, showing real empathy and humanity. A new world needs a new vision; a scared and suffering citizenship needs empathy and hope. Few leaders are showing that. Trump understood that: “Let’s make America great again,” (for some folks) means “Let’s have hope again”; “Let’s build a wall between us and Mexico and stop Muslims from entering the country” means “I see you are scared and I’m going to do something about it.” Of course these are not the solutions we are looking for. He’s clearly not a good leader, but where are the good leaders? Even Clinton didn’t offer that kind of hope and answer to people’s worries (she would’ve won had it been the case.)

Having the levels of inequality and suffering we are seeing today, at this point of our human evolution, with so much technology and money in our hands, is inadmissible. Sensationalism in old media, misinformation in and miseducation for the new media, the establishment’s indifference to people’s claims and needs, and lack of good leadership are the ingredients of a well-known recipe with well-known results.