Monday, July 18, 2016

Leaders In Search Of Scapegoats

Where have all the leaders gone? That's the question Michael Harris asks over at ipolitics. The newly anointed and the wish to be anointed don't inspire a lot of confidence:

As the apocalypse beckons, the need for real political wisdom has never been greater. But no Titans have emerged. Instead, obscene caricatures of political leadership have risen to the top of several world establishments.

In Britain, Theresa May sits astride the absurd political ascendancy of the post-Brexit-referendum era. One of her first acts was to shut down the U.K.’s Department of Energy and Climate Change. Britain’s Tin Lady made another decision which is even more dangerous to the planet on the short term: putting the Brexit Boor and “serial liar” Boris Johnson in charge of foreign affairs.

One has to wonder about May's appointment of Johnson as Britain's chief diplomat:

Johnson is the man whose claim to fame is a bad mop of hair, pants that are perpetually on fire, and a yen for racism. Making him the country’s chief diplomat is like putting Bernie Madoff in charge of pension plan. After Barack Obama stuck his nose in the Brexit debate, urging the UK to remain in the European Union, Johnson responded by talking about the U.S. president’s “part Kenyan” ancestry.

Johnson’s previous remarks though made clear that his jibe wasn’t meant as a compliment. As reported in the Guardian, Johnson went on to describe Africans as “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles.” Their problem, he opined, was “not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge any more.”

Over in France, Francois Holland is cracking down on civil liberties, but the attacks keep coming:

The government has used its extraordinary new police and anti-terror powers to round up and arrest hundreds of its own citizens. Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality — the clarion call of one of the world’s most famous revolutions — has morphed into an obsession with policing. Strange that. Civil rights are cancelled but terrorist attacks increase. The French once exported the Statue of Liberty to America. Today they are building a Statue of Oppression at home.

And, in the land of the Statue of Liberty, the choice is between Donald and Hillary:

Look at the choice facing Americans in this November’s presidential election — a political lifer investigated by the FBI for possible breaches of national security while Secretary of State; versus a to-the-manor-born ignoramus with a Jesus complex whose idea of big, international news is a new irrigation system for his golf course in Scotland.

They don't stoke inspiration. But they do stoke fear. Harris writes, "Frightened people always have an index finger ready to point to the external causes of their woes. They’re also more likely to ignore any part they played in creating the morass like, say, invading Iraq in the first place."

And, before we get too smug, let's remember that the guy we just sent packing set up a snitch line so that the paranoid among us could rat on those of us they felt engaged in "barbaric practices." When leaders go searching for scapegoats, anyone of us could qualify for that moniker.



The Mound of Sound said...

Neoliberalism is not compatible with statesmanship, Owen. It requires technocrats, preferably somewhat authoritarian, to administer the diminished jurisdiction they share with their nation's transnational partners. Matters that lack capital or commercial utility, the sort of things summoned by vision, are discouraged, unwanted.

The public are, well, treated as the "masses." They're a herd to be driven and penned as quickly and cheaply as possible. What works better than fear and appeals to their basest instincts. "Protectors" don't have to deliver material improvements in the voters' lives. It's enough that they keep the zombies at bay. What is easier to defend against than sheer contrivance?

America today is returning to its past of overt racism. It's the stuff that deeply divides societies and it's just bad luck that it returns at the moment America, and every country, most needs social cohesion. Oh dear.

Owen Gray said...

Today's leaders have determined that the best way to manage the masses, Mound, is to treat them like mushrooms. If they can keep the herd in the dark and throw manure on their heads, they'll succeed. But, if light manages to find its way into the darkness, all bets -- for good or for ill -- are off.

Lorne said...

While i have always regarded Boris Johnson as a buffoon, Owen, I was unaware of his racism. This century, contrary to what we might have imagined it would be when we were boys, is clearly not turning out to be a time of enlightenment and progress.

Owen Gray said...

Some of us who went into teaching believed that education was the best way to put an end to racism, Lorne. Johnson went to Eton and Oxford. He is a product of the "best" schools. Clearly, that counts for nothing.

The Mound of Sound said...

There's still a lot of "Empire" in Boris Johnson, David Cameron and their ilk. It is the stuff of Eton and Oxford and it's resurgence in public was almost inevitable. In the States, many on the Right took the election of a black president as their excuse to indulge in a racist restoration.

Keith Boag has an excellent opinion piece on CBC's web site.

Owen Gray said...

Boag's piece is excellent, Mound. What he says about Anne Coulter applies to Johnson. The old aristocracy -- the Society of Your Betters -- is alive and well.

Toby said...

What Coulter says about consolidating the white vote and ignoring the rest sounds like it came from Steven Harper. It worked here for a while. It just worked in England. It can work in the US.

Owen Gray said...

Unfortunately, that's true, Toby. It will work -- until the natives get restless.

Steve said...

We used to say we dont know if communism works because it has never been tried, and we know democarcay does not work because it has been tried.

As a cavet what goes on in Canada, USA and Great Britian is a long way from pure democracy, or even Turkey. Somedays it seems everyone has just given up, do they know something we dont????

Owen Gray said...

There are always those who give up, Steve. It takes perseverance to deal with imperfection.