Monday, November 14, 2016

It's all over now, baby blue (take it up with Dylan, why don't you?)

I woke up on the morning of the 9th, anxious. A weird sensation coursed through me whole; an unease which I couldn't shake. I reached for my phone to see what havoc the night had wrought, and learned that Donald Trump was leading Hillary Clinton in all the projections news portals were casting/constantly revising in real-time. Not by much, initially, but leading he was. Even as we read the numbers coming in, no one wanted to believe what they seemed to be saying. This couldn't possibly be. Trump might have the lead on Clinton, but surely it would dissipate soon? Surely, when it came to it, people were going to vote for the admittedly uninspiring status-quoist who embodied the establishment they had declaimed loudly - and repeatedly - they despised, right? Because what real option did they have? A misogynistic and racist sociopath whose candidacy almost everyone had failed to counter seriously because they had dismissed it as a joke? Surely voters were going to go with the known evil; the warmonger over the loose cannon?

Some of you may have deduced from my tone that I'm not exactly an enthusiastic Hillary Clinton supporter. Well done. I'm not. Let me spell out why. I identify as feminist: to my core. This has been the one constant non-negotiable tenet of faith around which all my experiments with truth, identity, sexuality - being, in a word - have long unfolded. It angered me endlessly that sections of the media held that not getting behind Clinton's candidacy somehow 'dented' anyone's feminist credentials. Er. No. Because it is precisely feminism that does not allow me to look away from the right royal mess and godawful loss of life in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and anywhere else the US has persisted in pushing its pathetically self-serving (neo-imperialist) foreign policy. Then there's the painful fact that even if we recognise that capital is nameless and faceless, if you squint a little bit, it begins to look a little like the Clinton Foundation and others of its ilk. Paid speeches to the goons on Wall Street? It's hard to curry favour with the 99% after something like that, think you not?
And this is why calling this election has been so bloody complicated: there is clearly a serious amount of misogyny powering how these results have panned out. For anyone looking, this much is clear from even continents away: there was no way America was about to vote a woman into power. But this wasn't just any woman: this was a woman who was an adept player of the 'game' that animates Washington DC. This was a woman who had an 'emic' or insider's perspective when it came to the workings of power and the close nexus between politics and capital. 

Were the Democratic party less invested in maintaining status quo itself, it would have known that fielding Clinton - and pushing her candidacy over Sanders in as obviously partisan a way as they did - was a terrible idea. The call that had gone out was a loud and clear one: the people had made it known that it was 'change' they were after: enough of the establishment, and whoever they thought embodied it. This is why, as I've been saying all year through, Trump and Sanders needed to be read, at least structurally, as companion pieces; alike in more ways than we countenanced. Whether they were or not (for I hold that Trump is the farthest thing from anti-establishment in one sense; more on that soon), they were both perceived as outsiders who would mount a challenge to the power structures that exert and perpetuate hegemony.

I remember being astounded by the numbers Sanders' rallies were drawing nation-wide when I was in America over the summer. So many people I spoke to were convinced he was the 'change' candidate America needed. What struck me then was how, much like with Corbyn in the UK, sections of the media attempted to malign Sanders by making out that he leaned far Left. How ludicrous a world do we have to live in for this to be considered an insult? More, how far Right of Centre has political discourse shifted when a Social Democrat, to most ears, begins to sound like someone on the Radical Left? 

And this is where, in the end, the beginning: Trump and his wealth are products of the same structures of inequity and foul-play that people say they want no more of, without being able to name precisely what it is that ails us. We are living through the death-throes of capitalism. We saw this with Brexit, and I said then that this was a very scary moment to live through because world over, people are increasingly frustrated with the smallness of their lives; of what they imagine it is possible to do with them. There is angst, there is frustration which often plays itself out in myriad forms of violence. In India, our response was to elect a fascist strongman who promised "development" at all cost. In England, the Leave campaign leveraged just the right amount of paranoia and hatred of the 'other' to carry the day. This is what Trump has managed to tap into, because discontent - especially the kind we cannot adequately name or identify the source or shape of - is an engraved invitation to the strongman (and it has, almost unflinchingly always been a 'man') to seize the reins of a flailing polity. Modi did it by saying he had a 56" chest that he would use to protect India from whatever was coming at us. The irony of a man who has benefitted from (and continues to be a supporter of) free markets suddenly tapping into a protectionist and hypernationalist discourse as he plays up the insularity which has long been a hallmark of large parts of America cannot and should not be lost upon us. There's a Chinese benediction which goes something like this: may you live in uninteresting times. Clearly, these are not those times.