THE past year saw the emergence of a phenomenon unrecognised by the anointed who rule us: growing discontent with the spread of globalisation and the consequent destruction of nationality and culture.
The elites choose to see the growth of what they describe as populism as a consequence of two factors. Either economic policies, such as fuel price rises underpinning les gilets jaunes in France, or unrestricted immigration creating an isolationist backlash in Italy and elsewhere. They totally misunderstand what is happening because, like the ancien regime, they have lost touch with the people they rule.
What is happening cannot be understood in purely economic terms. It is more than discontent with the allocation of resources, neither is it a xenophobic fear of the other. Underneath it all, from the Sweden Democrats to Fidez in Hungary, from German’s AfD to Italy’s Lega Nord, political parties in touch with the desires of the people are on the rise.
They are expressing underlying and profound cultural tensions which the elites are ill-equipped to counter. Macron’s response to les gilets jaunes was typical of an out-of-touch elitist. A few meaningless concessions at the height of the protests were followed by sneeringly calling them a ‘hateful mob’ who are ‘quite simply the negation of France’ in a monarchical New Year address.
Today individuals are motivated to reject the establishment by concerns that do not fit the old socialist model of socio-economic class struggle. The ordinary people of Europe are calling into question the legitimacy of political orthodoxy.
This was clearly seen in Brexit. The debate was almost exclusively conducted on economic lines, whether the UK would be better off financially in or out of the EU. There was little attention given to what kind of Britain would emerge.
One of the main reasons why Project Fear, conducted by the government, the political class and their compliant media before, during and after the Brexit debate, failed and continues to fail, is that it does not address the concerns of those who wish for Brexit and will be extremely unsettled if they don’t get it. Brexiteers, in their own words, ‘want their country back’.
Over the last few decades globalisation has tightened its grip. Sovereignty, both national and popular, has been scorned. Values such as family and nation have been belittled as outdated or prejudiced. The result has been to sever people and communities from the ways in which they identify themselves.
Added to this dispossession is a creeping totalitarian ethos which makes people defensive about voicing their concerns. To raise questions about the values of multiculturalism, diversity and identity politics is to be scorned and vilified as a bigot.
The Scottish government and Police Scotland are running a hate crime awareness campaign which displays intimidatory posters addressing ‘Bigots’, ‘Homophobes’, ‘Transphobes’, and others, and signed ‘Yours, Scotland’. The message is that to express unwillingness to accept progressive orthodoxy is to be a heretic who must be expunged from ‘our’ community.
If you are not part of the culturally privileged globalist elite or do not willingly accept their cultural values you know yourself to be scorned, an object of derision or hate. A growing number of people feel like strangers in their own homes. Is it any wonder that discontent is growing throughout Europe?
The elites not only do not recognise what is bubbling away beneath them but they do not have the equipment to deal with it. Values are about the meaning of life itself, and those who operate according to a socio/economic paradigm cannot solve the tensions.
Personal values have become politicised to the extent that there is little room for negotiation. The person who pursues globalism as an ultimate value will see the individual who holds to a patriotic outlook only as someone to be defeated.
The most important question we face is not how can the elites cope with this discontent; they can do no more than allay it for a short time. But as they will undoubtedly continue their globalisation thrust, any reduction of tension is only a lull. As people are disregarded, tensions will grow.
The big question is who, if anyone, will shape and lead those who are resentful. The discontented are searching for a voice to express their concerns, to point the way to solutions to the effects of a destructive globalisation.
The Right has largely thrown in its lot with corporate globalism. The Left sees the discontented as either proto-fascists or economically disadvantaged.
Both sides from the traditional political spectrum downplay and attempt to smother the true nature of our situation. Once the people are organised and are seen to be more than ballot fodder whilst the politicians squabble for power, those politicians are liable to be swept away.
New voices are needed. This people’s revolt in every nation in Europe is really a people searching for a voice, a moral voice which expresses their social and cultural concerns and values. Will such voices emerge? If they don’t, we are liable to see increasing tensions, and when tensions increase without a release valve we find ourselves in an uncontrollable situation.
This is more than a Brexit problem; it is something touching all of Europe. We have before us the possibility of creating a free society where people of every cultural and political viewpoint can express themselves freely, where individuals can reach their full potential and nations can grow on their past.
It will not be easy. It is a daunting proposition, but it is not impossible to reform nations. In 1970 Lech Walesa was an electrician in the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk in totalitarian communist Poland. In 1990 he was the president of a free Poland.