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.