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The Spectre of Populism

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A spectre is haunting the world- the spectre of populism, the art of appealing to or rhetoric aimed at ordinary people. However, demagoguery has embraced populism with a big fat hug. If it reminds you of our Prime Minister, well it should, for he is an absolute master at use of populism in politics.

Populist politicians pander to the masses. They tell the people exactly what they want to hear in order to sway public opinion in their favour. If you tell people that what is happening to them is not really their fault but that of some other agents, they will be inclined to agree with you. Humans like to believe that their achievements are of their own making and their problems caused by everything but their own self. If you slipped on a wet floor because you ignored the warning sign that had been put up regarding the same, you would absolutely love to hear that the sign was made deliberately small and it is not really your fault. Apply this to any modern example and you see a trend of people being discontent with the status quo, or the current scenario and populist demagogues swooping in to capitalize on the disgruntled masses.

Populism is the most potent arrow in the quiver of demagogues. Demagogues are essentially political leaders who seek support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument. Case in point, newly elected dictator, our lord and saviour Donald Trump. That is of course, if you are an American or Russian. If you are the citizen of any other country, well, good luck trying to be heard over populist pandemonium.

Rationality entails listening to facts and working with them. However, if you tell the people that all of science is false and every scientific fact just a myth propagated to exploit them, they finally feel good. They finally feel that this entire scientific jargon, that was too complex for their feeble minds to digest, is a lie. They feel better about themselves by finding solace in falsehoods. The commander-in-chief of these lies thus becomes the standard of truth and the go-to place for verification of facts. Statistics lie, science lies, rationality is overrated. Let us all instead fall to the feet of the Trump.

Extend it to other major claims made by Donald Trump and his statements about Mexicans being the harbingers of evil and propagators of crimes in America, it was a pleasant thing for the people to hear. They were instantly absolved of the burden of a broken American society they have created as it was transferred to a foreign community which never got a chance to argue that all these opinions were based on falsified statements.

The refugee crisis faced by the world in light of recent conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere have presented a unique and powerful tool to demagogues. Populist politicians have told people that the immigrants are taking away their jobs, their housing, their resources, and forced them into thinking that they are nothing but parasites for the country that receives them. They play on people’s fears, so they added the fear of foreign people or xenophobia to an armour already well equipped with racism, Islamophobia, nativism and other policies that take humanity further away from global identity. They instead carefully build walls between people using a strong web of lies and then perch themselves atop them to rule the people. Such populist pandering often falls short at the implementation stage for there was never a concrete plan in place but by the time that happens, the damage is often done. Trump’s election is just one among a long list of such instances. Brexit happened and now as people realize they have made a mistake, it is a little too late. Hitler was elected and by the time people saw his true colours, they could do nothing but resent the red, white and black of the Swastika.

We are living in a world of lies carefully spun to trap our feeble minds. At every point, you would want to believe in a story because it suits you. Your native and primal mindsets will knock on the door of rationality with scythes that may destroy the truth. It is your responsibility however, to protect the truth, protect your sanity, and avoid the potholes of lies that you find along the path to truth. As Indians, I believe we are equipped to deal with potholes and I hope that you manage to ration your susceptibility in an irrational world.

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