USA Today: The Climax of an Ideology Taken Too Far

I Google a very neutral, non-suggestive ‘trump’ and what I get are pages and pages and pages of anxious articles on how The Donald is breaking every halfway-intelligent idea of what the USA needs. Curiously enough, there are hardly any posts hailing his glory and declaring him God. If NYTimes is virtually in panic, even Fox News is shifting in its seats undecidedly about which way to swing — they really aren’t coming out clearly in favour of the frontrunner Republican candidate. Which, obviously, is odd! But off the internet, in the polling booths and rally stadia, the mood of the nation is being laid down loud and clear. And as they say, the people’s verdict is God’s voice. The stark chasm between common sense and common happening is incomprehensible, till you sit down to think hard about it all.

America had it coming all along. We are just noticing it now.

Corporate America (and corporations in general) have long been driven by one goal — growth. Ensuring shareholder value beats every other objective nine times out of ten. (The one time it doesn’t, it is called CSR and comes in handy against the tax man.) In that process, several steps are taken collectively by businesses and governments that promote efficiency over social good or innovation. That is all fair — I am no Marxist — until it goes unchecked for long periods of time. When, in the name of efficient business and reducing overheads (including salaries, by the way), quality gets replaced by what is ‘just enough’ at a price point that is far below what the local employee market demands, a cycle begins. The business itself grows, declaring quarter after quarter of growth, even as the real people in the local residential areas start to look wearier and wearier. More and more people go out of jobs, replaced by cheaper labour provided by immigrants or overseas markets. Joblessness, homelessness and out-of-insurance crowds swell. Crime increases, despair sets in and a restless edginess increasingly characterizes the environment. While, the corporation owners and head-honchos drive by in their bigger and better luxury cars. It is an ideology of unfettered free market capitalism that has been taken way too far. See what HBR says:

It is an unmistakeable pattern — greed ruins the very field that nurtured it. Quite literally, a farmer could render his land untillable by over-fertilizing it for a few years and trying to extract more and more from either the same or lesser resources! Eventually, the land just becomes barren and the game is over for the greedy farmer. Similarly, industries that are created essentially to grow and create employment for their own regions and countries, in their increasing greed, run their resources dry by their drive to over-achieve consistently. The difference between dead fields and weary humans is that the latter group retorts.

When a crowd of people has been systematically passed over for benefits by another, more privileged group — the ‘rich become richer, poor become poorer’ stereotype — unrest steadily builds up. History has shown us time and time again (French Revolution, Russian Revolution…) that eventually, the mob will unite and bring down the castle-dwellers in a fierce showdown of utter hate and devastation.

Albeit not as bloody (just yet), what is happening in the USA today isn’t very different. These may not be war cries, but the initial murmur (or even shrill voice) of dissent against exclusionism is playing out as large swathes of common people are coming out and voting for an unlikely candidate like Donald Trump, just because he says he will throw out the outsiders and return jobs rightfully back to the locals. Really, what’s not to cheer in that idea, especially if you have lost your job years back to a China or a Mexico or an India and never managed to get back on your feet ever since? Besides, when people are fearful of being attacked by radicals and terrorists, he stands by them and stridently proclaims about routing them from the root! It isn’t about playing to the gallery or mere populism. It is that Trump has hit that nerve and that’s what is now making him unstoppable.

However, his rhetoric — as accessible as it is — is likely just that. He doesn’t have a track record of delivering or even staying true to his word. But you see, a very desperate America, which wants real answers and solutions, is not even asking him how he is going to do any of what he says he will — they are ready to all of blindly support him, no questions asked! That’s how urgent the situation is.

The problem is, with that kind of a mandate of total trust, if he doesn’t deliver, the enormity of the outrage that people will feel, the deep sense of having been totally cheated by someone they so completely trusted, will lash out in dangerous ways that will probably completely take out any sense of rational behaviour. A mob will collect, repeatedly reinforcing within itself the deep anger that unites them and spiral into an absolutely unholy, damaging rampage, taking no prisoners. The very apocalypse. The revenge of the underdog.

But it can be prevented. If only the real, rational contenders in the election will pay heed to the real pain that is driving this collective forfeiture of common sense. The American people are trying to say something. It is important. It needs to be heeded and attended to quickly and fruitfully. The amount of personal and political goodwill that can be garnered when an injured populace is helped on its feet, can never be acquired in any other circumstance. It is a golden opportunity for a leader who has the strategy, tactics and above all, empathy to do what is needed to become a real hero.

I am reasonably convinced that the Donald is just not right for a job of that magnitude. But like the Jester “tells the truth”, even as he is being laughed at, Trump, unwittingly, is reminding Washington about what the real problem is. His supporters aren’t so much supporting a man with a gelled golden combover with a comical flair for bombast, as much as they are sending a plaintive plea to be heard. Of course, the jester shouldn’t become king; but those that have the capability to rule well are still in the race. The question is, are they listening?

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