A populist virus is with western democracy and we have no vaccine.
The virus is virulent with insidious symptoms that begin with the loss of rhyme and reason flowing seamlessly into early-onset imbecility and then late-stage demagoguery. So far there is no cure for the frat party gone wild.
Unlike the cold and flu virus that mutates away into any number of strains and generates fever, coughs and sore throats enough to put all the men in bed for a week, the populist virus is a dandy thing. It incites bouts of clapping, cheering, and crowdsourced glee at almost anything said by a carrier. As its designation suggests, it goes viral online faster than anything carried by a flea and contaminates all feeds all the time.
Being devoid of content, antibodies have nothing to attach to, making it difficult in the extreme for any would-be medic, not even big pharma has enough resources to find an antidote.
Alistair Campbell, spin doctor and thought machine behind Tony Blair and New Labour from the mid-1990s in the UK, talks about the populist virus and had this to say when considering the choice between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt for the next UK Prime Minister
“I mean, we have gone from figures like Thatcher leading the Tory party to this being the choice. But also, it was the extent to which the really simplistic, populist, fact-free rhetoric was the stuff which was getting the applause. Where even five, 10 years ago, there would have been the absolute howl of ‘How are you going to pay for it? What happens if that doesn’t happen?’
When Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979 I was just about to become a university student. It was a painful time but boy did she get things done. Neo-liberalism was embraced and before anyone really knew what was happening the unions were busted and ordinary folk up and down the UK were buying their terrace house and giving birth to yuppies. Much of this was new and scary and ego-centric but mountains moved.
Likely that the early mutations of the populist virus, the ones with little chance of real success appeared around that time when there were still enough howling to weed them out.
Today we do not have any leaders worthy of the name anywhere except in New Zealand. Consequently, the virus has the freedom to spawn, spread and mess with everyone’s heads so much that people cheer at the detention of women and children in cages at borders.
This is frightening. Not many would look back at the political climate of the UK in the early eighties and lament its strong leadership. At the time it felt like a rape of a socialist ethos, today you would take it in a heartbeat for at least you knew what the leaders were about.
Now we have a virus afflicting normal people with insanity.
Is the populist virus fatal?
Well, we know that populism is doing well and is spreading. Some folk have an innate resistance to it but can still carry it forward to others.
It is pushing evidence and facts to one side as it bends minds away from even the most obvious of conclusions. It means we are running blind into a world that is still adding 8,000 new people per hour and where 3.3 billion souls are getting by on $5.50 per day.
The estimate from the agricultural research community is that by 2030 we need to increase global grain production by over a billion tonnes and meat production by 180 million tonnes, just to get close to the rising demand. That’s 2% per annum food production growth across the board each and every year for a generation. Just because we achieved such a miracle once before in the 1940s and 50s, does not mean we can automatically do it again.
Blindness is not necessarily fatal unless you think you can see. Then you can easily walk out in front of a bus.
The real difficulty with this virus seems to be the antidote. What to take to reduce the effects of imbecility. On this problem, everyone is at a loss, even Jacinta.
Progressives are old and tired and the centre is scurrying to the populist left to express the symptoms of the virus there.
Fringe alternatives are unable to grasp the magnitude of the task for the mainstream – we can’t all live on a mountaintop on goats milk.
The ivory towers are mute and even George Monbiot is struggling to find a whinge.
You know what? I think maybe we will collapse under the weight of this virus or a subsequent mutation of it.
At the very least too many of us will succumb after two terms of Donald, another two of Ivanka, even five minutes of Boris, and become rabid, spreading infection out to the entire world.
But I have a solution…
Get everyone to read The Courage to be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga and inoculate ourselves with some Adlerian psychology.