Brexit and Trump vs. The Big Blue Marble in Space

Brexit and Trump. The Brexit vote and the Trump movement suggest to me that the anti-globalization right in the West is ever more evidently on the ropes. The broken wheel squeaks loudest. The right’s Christian fundamentalism card doesn’t seem to work, so now it’s playing, in Trump’s movement and in the Brexit vote, the protectionist nationalism card.

Protectionist nationalism and fundamentalist religion are essentially two ways to play the same game. Nationalist religion is what’s left of religion after actual religion is intellectually discredited.

In this sense, the Japanese imperialism and European nationalism of the 19th and early-20th century varieties were forms of reactionary tribalism that replaced old-school religious tribalism. They were the movements that dominated life and thinking after the the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution, and Darwin set religion on its heels.

So nationalism was the Herderian reaction to the stresses of modernity up and until its reductio ad absurdum in Adolf Hitler. By the end of World War II, the Holocaust and Hiroshima finally gave everyone serious pause about the value of imperialist and protectionist nationalism and chauvinism.

Then, in the summer of 1969, we landed on the moon, and saw Earth from space.

So religion was intellectually discredited in the 19th century; nationalism in the 20th; and the possibility of a world civilization was given a concrete visual symbol when humanity first saw the Earth from space.

Communism then, Islam now. In the 20th century, it was the Russian revolution and international communism that played the anxiety-provoking excuse for hunkering down in conservative nationalism. In the 21st century, it’s 9/11 and fundamentalist Islam. Militant forms of Islam, and the tip-to-toe covering of immigrant women brought by Islam to the West, spur the sorts of anxieties that make Western people want to hunker down in suspicion as opposed to trust. Hitler would have never reached power save for fear of Communism, and likewise, Trump and Brexit are fueled by fear of Islam.

My prediction. As compared with populist and protectionist nationalism, Brexit will bring to the fore the natural superiority, in the 21st century, of globalization, trade, and multiculturalism. The real-time experiment Britain is now conducting is going to alarm everyone–most especially the Brits. You don’t know how good you’ve got it, till it’s gone.

So I predict that the sheer shock of the Brexit vote’s economic consequences is going to result in a counter-reaction that forges Britain to Europe even more indissolubly. It’s going to completely discredit protectionist and nationalist movements. There will be no Brexit follow-through. Britain’s leaders will drag their feet, and another vote will be taken a year from now. And there will be no Donald Trump presidency because Brexit will scare shit out of the majority of Americans. Before entering voting booths in November, they’ll see what populist simplicities applied in practice look like. Trump’s fatal error was nonchalantly saying in Scotland that Brexit is a good thing. It’s the rope Hillary will hang his candidacy from.

Illegal aliens and space aliens. Younger voters especially don’t want to blow up the evolving global civilization, for they are increasingly urban-dwellers, and urban-dwellers have far more in common with their urban peers across the globe than they do with, say, those living in rural areas, divorced from technology, and devoted to traditional forms of life, religion, and patriotism.

So while it’s true that humans are tribal animals, and human nature doesn’t change quickly from an evolutionary point of view, it is nevertheless also true that the notion of the tribe is being imaginatively transformed into the inhabitants of the planet as a whole. Against the noisy protectionist, nationalist, and anti-immigrant reactionaries, and their psychologically shut-in monotheist cousins (“There is no god, but mine“), the circle of empathy of people actually braving movement about in the larger world is widening every day. In ever greater numbers, people are coming to see our human fate as a collective one; we’re all in the same boat. We sink or swim together.

The global collective threat of poisoning the commons, and the problem of rising sea levels from global warming, helps us envision our collective fate. And what might also help an expanded and empathic global consciousness is if SETI discovers a signal from an alien civilization over the next couple of decades. Then it can be “us” over here on this tiny planet, and “them” out there in the very far (and fortunately, unreachable) distance. Focusing on illegal immigration narrows vision; focusing on SETI broadens it.

The big blue marble vs. the tangerine tornadoes (Trump and Boris Johnson). The Sesame Street song, Big Blue Marble, has far more good sense in it than any speech by Donald Trump or Brexit politician like Boris Johnson. The lyrics to the song pretty much explicate the megatrend that will swamp in due course all contemporary efforts at revived protectionist nationalism and fundamentalism:

The earth’s a Big Blue Marble
When you see it from out there
The sun and moon declare
Our beauty’s very rare

Folks are folks and kids are kids
We share a common name
We speak a different way
But work and play the same

We sing pretty much alike
Enjoy spring pretty much alike
Peace and love we all understand
And laughter, we use the very same brand

Our differences, our problems
From out there there’s not much trace
Our friendships they can place
While looking at the face
Of the Big Blue Marble in space

Notice that last stanza–and most specifically the third line of that stanza (“Our friendships they can place”). The “they” in that third line suggests imagined aliens. Aliens seeing the Earth from space would see that those living there share a rare and beautiful home (oikos; ecology), and would infer that, if there is a civilization on the planet, it is evolving toward an ethos of: (1) not wrecking Earth; (2) recognizing the shared fate of its inhabitants; and (3) valuing integration and friendship.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
This entry was posted in beauty, brexit, climate change, donald trump, hillary clinton, Politics, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Brexit and Trump vs. The Big Blue Marble in Space

  1. Certainly “Protectionist nationalism and fundamentalist religion” are factors in the backlash exhibited by Brexit and Trump’s “success”. On the other hand, there is this:

    “It’s easy to blame the voters for being stupid or easily influenced. The starting point, though, is surely that we refuse to demonize the Leavers. We are not used to despair, but so many people in our country are. If you feel your life is painful and hopeless and no one is offering any solutions, is it really so irrational to want to inject some chaos into the system? Is it crazy to think that the blowing up the status quo is the one chance to shake things up? It’s incorrect, I think, but it’s not crazy. And, again, it’s our fault. What world have we built if half the population think radical uncertainty is better than the status quo?”

    View at

    • Santi Tafarella says:


      Life is about coping with otherness, and letting go of motherness. (Yes, I just made that up. I suppose if you Google it, someone else I don’t know about probably got there first.)

      In any case, the otherness of earthquakes, chemotherapy, aging, sex, speaking before an audience, death, pain, war, change, multiculturalism, immigrants–that is, all those things that move us from states of innocence to the experience that we’re not at the center of the universe–are the sorts of things every day that assault the cocoon of omnipotence and narcissism that our mothers (and sometimes our fathers) once shielded us from as infants and small children. This gets peeled away as we age.

      So if you’ve ever wondered what life’s about, it’s about working with what gets peeled away, and what remains–and whether we’ll deal with it in the mode of children or adults.

      Adults feel empathy and organize for human solidarity (a human solidarity that crosses national borders). They don’t retreat into bigotry and put up walls grounded, not in reality, but in their basest fears.

      And that’s why it’s important that Great Britain continues its integration with the EU and Trump is defeated in November.

      You are essentially asking me to feel sympathy for bigotry itself because, well, it’s grounded in fear and pain (lost jobs, fear of otherness, old people recalling days in their youth when there were more white and English speaking people around them, etc.). Well, I do feel sympathy for the Trump and Brexit voter, because we’re all in the same fucking boat. The flies change, but the shit is the same. For one person, it’s working with growing up black. For another, it’s growing up white. Or Hindu. We’re all letting go of–or holding tight to–our omnipotence. In every moment of every day, as the river of time moves, we’re confronted with otherness and our own ongoing diminishment.

      Nobody gets out alive.

      So the Brexit and Trump voters are in pain? No shit. We’re all in pain. We’re all subject to pain. But the question is whether we’re going to have an adult relation to that pain.

      We need to prepare ourselves for the evolving global civilization that is coming (and in many ways already here), not enfeeble ourselves and cower from it. Demographers tell us that 90% of all humans on the planet will live in cities by century’s end. You are only making it worse if you coddle people with nostalgic hopes of returning to an idealized past. You make it harder for them to cope, not easier. Imagine the knitting of those cities together electronically, and imagine the effect on the psyche, etc. You’ve got to work with the world that’s coming, because it’s not going to stop coming because you want to give people plenty of space to regress and return to their childhoods.

      They can already regress. They can turn off the TV, for one thing, and start a commune of the likeminded. But that would take work. You don’t even want them to work for their regression.

      Put another way, we can have an adult reaction to otherness, or a childlike shielding beneath the skirts of mother. Children hide behind mother; adults in the 21st century organize themselves in solidarity with others–including others that really are other from them. Trump and Brexit essentially are selling cowardice and smallness of soul, and because there are so many frightened cowards and omnipotent children out there, Trump and Brexit get votes. Trump is one of the most fearful men to have ever come near to the presidency. He mirrors the fear of his voters perfectly. He’s a con man and a coward of the worst sort. That’s not demonizing him. That’s a fact. He never grew up. Like Rapunzel in her tower, he’s always been shielded behind high walls from the consequences of his actions. He risks other people’s money and lives, never his own. He wants his mode of being to go viral. He’s selling infantilism.

      America and Britain are better, and make progress, when we call things what they are. Citizens need to act as ever more competent adults–and not be treated like omnipotent and incompetent children.

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