The lost art of Dialogue: A Donald Trump Story


What a week… Donald Trump, president of the USA. After reading all the articles and opinions on social media, I have to get something off my chest. I’m getting really frustrated with our collective ignorance and our inability to see opportunity beyond the change. Let me explain… .

What keeps me up at night is not Trump, the person but it is the movement his election represents and also how surprised the world was that it happened. If you look at it in the context of much larger shifts that are happening in our society, it actually makes a lot of sense unfortunately. In the Western world, our economic growth has almost stagnated, the middle class is decreasing and the wealth that was created after the 2008 financial crisis didn’t go to the people who lost everything but to the people that caused the losses in the first place. On the non-financial side, politicians seem increasingly unable to deal with any kind of crisis, being it environmental, financial or refugees and if the media isn’t warning us for potential terrorist attacks, they bombard us with other horror stories. If you look at it from this perspective, is it so unbelievable that people make choices out of fear and frustration? That they crave change so badly that it doesn’t matter who brings it? And this is happening everywhere. The situation in the United States is not an isolated event. Just think about Brexit and the progress of the far-right movement in Europe, actions that are driven by the same fear and frustration. The resemblance with the pre-WWII world is almost impossible to ignore … . I can hear what you’re thinking: “surely, it won’t come that far?” But wasn’t that what the world thought about Trump and the Brexit?

And so, we close our eyes and hope it will all just go away. And when this approach backfires, we’re outraged and wonder how the hell we ended up here! Well, we ended up here because we don’t want to see that our Western world is perhaps not as great as it used to be. But acknowledging that also implies that we have to let go of the illusion that we will collectively have the exact same kind of comfort we’ve been having for a long time now. It implies that things need to change. But really, would that be such a bad thing?

That brings me to my second point. Why are we so incapable of seeing the opportunity that lies within this change? Have we perhaps been too comfortable for too long and lost our flexibility to adapt? Why do we automatically seem to assume that change will mean less than what we have now? It’s almost as if we don’t dare to dream anymore. But just imagine what a better world could look like. What if all the wealth we create is distributed more equally through a system of basic income for instance or if we embrace technological evolution in health care instead of holding on to archaic methods for profit’s sake? Or what if we finally let go of our fossil fuels and really choose renewable energy? If you think this is naïve and it sounds too left for your taste, then your missing the point. Because it’s not about left or right anymore, it’s about how we can move past this old system of polarisation and talk to each other again. How can we move towards a dialogue and actually listen?

Let me ask you: What’s the alternative? A world built on fear, like Trump’s? Or maintaining the status quo like Hillary — which is obviously not working anymore? The responsibility for change lies with each of us. Trump’s voters are not some evil beast; they are people like you and me with hopes and fears so let’s get off our moral high horse. They just don’t agree with what the Western world is offering them anymore.

The challenge we collectively face is how we can create a message of change that is based on hope and opportunity and not on fear and frustration. How can we move past left and right, past race and go to the core of what binds us together: our shared values? When will we start looking past our fears and start embracing the change that’s happening? If we are not able to see its raw potential and come up with something better together, we’re running the risk of having someone else make the decision for us. And we might not like the outcome… .

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