So, Donald Trump is about to be US president. Bummer, eh? I bet when you saw the results you were pretty distraught, pretty angry. A proper WTF moment if ever there was one. I mean, he’s a lecherous demagogue with no experience of public administration, who is due to face a number of legal battles in court. “Brexit times a thousand” they said. It felt a bit ‘24 June’, didn’t it? And a bit like the general election. Remember how that all felt? None of them a complete shock, as such, but each time a feeling of being let down, by polls, by voters.
So, how are you feeling about Trump? Probably still a bit annoyed, perhaps despairing at a world hopping into a handcart and searching Google Maps for Hell. But ultimately, I’d wager you’ve mostly come to terms with it.
After all, what can you do?
Sadly, we need to accept such things, even if we wish they hadn’t happened. They are, after all, the Will Of The People. And you can’t go raging against the Will Of The People, because that makes you an Enemy Of The People. You can mumble, whinge to your mates, get into arguments on the internet, but you can’t change anything now – what’s done is done. So, there’s no point in still being angry. That’s democracy, folks.
F*ck that. F*ck that right off.
Excuse my language, but really, no. No, no, no. There is one very good point in being angry: nothing will change if we aren’t. Why do you think Trump and Brexit happened? Because people were angry. The Conservatives won the general election promising a referendum on membership of a European Union that made a lot of people angry. Isis is built on anger. Vladimir Putin uses it to tremendous effect. This used-litter-tray of a situation we find the planet in, is fuelled by anger – and only anger can clean it out. Not anger at people. Whinging about or shouting at old people and bigots and the NRA and Boris Johnson isn’t going to change anything – it certainly isn’t going to change them. Anger at something, at the injustices of the world, that’s what’s going to work.
Only angry people have ever enacted actual, massive social change, for good or bad.
Their methods and ideologies were different, but Mandela, Gandhi, Lenin, Hitler and Thatcher were all livid about something (I bet that connection has made a few people very angry). Not only that, but they also knew that other people were angry, too, and tapped into this. This is what Trump has done; what Nigel Farage has done.
“Whatever else is going on in Western societies, it would seem that the candidates who are best at articulating popular anger are the ones that flourish,” says Markus Wagner, assistant professor in quantitative methods at the University Of Vienna, and author of the essay ’Fear And Anger In Great Britain’. “Anger can make people think less about the consequences of their actions, and embrace uncertainty: we saw it in the Brexit vote, and we saw it with Donald Trump’s victory.”
Trump’s motives are shameful, his ends retrograde and damaging to human society, his rhetoric appallingly divisive, but his means are the ones you, me, we should be copying: identify anger and channel it. Except, whereas Trump channels it towards foreigners and ‘experts’ and The Establishment, we must channel it for good.
“The good news is that anger, in my research, isn’t bound to one school of thought,” says Wagner. “It’s not necessarily conservative – the whole idea is against tradition, as you’re angered by the status quo. We’ve seen a wave of anger on the right recently, but there’s no inherent reason for this force to be reactionary.”
Change of pace
Many people are angry, not at an ideology, but because life, they feel, has strapped their ankles to the bedframe and is kicking them in the balls – and nobody in power, the ‘elite’, or anyone in their cosy metropolitan bubbles, is listening to their cries of pain. Those people, it seems to them, are moaning about fracking over a plate of hummus and olives, while they get boot after boot in their balls, and not a head is turned – at least not enough heads to make a difference.
And you know what? They’re probably right. And I say that as someone who exists in such a bubble. Perhaps our cushty metropolitan, olive-eating lifestyles have deafened us to these cries, which is why we can’t comprehend these results.
“How could they?” we think. We see Britain First types, who are, thankfully, still a tiny minority, and think only people like that would vote for the likes of Trump or Farage. But our balls are OK. And so are our friends’ balls. We don’t know anyone with sore balls. So, we become complacent.
Then someone comes along and tells these people that their balls are getting pummelled to mush by immigrants and that the NHS could make their balls feel better if it wasn’t for the £3bn a second we’re paying to the EU. Or that it’s Mexicans and Muslims swinging their dirty foreign boots nutwards. And there’s a crazy logic to it, but mainly it’s just that they’ll try anything to stop their balls being kicked. They just want change – and it doesn’t have to be bad change. So, if you can take that pain, that anger, and direct it at the actual causes of their balls’ plight, then you can fix a lot.
Barack Obama and Tony Blair offered positive change and won election landslides. Bernie Sanders offered positive change and almost, as a self-proclaimed socialist, won the Democratic presidential nomination. The SNP offered positive change and stormed to victory in nearly every parliamentary seat in Scotland. Not one of them picking on easy, defenceless targets or kicking anyone in the balls.
“Anger makes people think less about the consequences of their actions”
This accounts, I believe, for a significant, decisive number of people. But, of course, it doesn’t explain every vote for Trump – and, in many cases, to leave the EU (although there were reasoned arguments for Brexit, unlike voting for Trump). Many of them would have been blatant racists or xenophobes. Many of them will have been utterly susceptible to meaningless slogans such as ‘Make America great again’ (for Brexit, read anything to do with ‘Taking our country back’). Many will be people doing very well for themselves, thank you very much, who don’t like the idea of having to share their winnings from the lottery of birth with anyone else.
Many, and this does apply to both the US and the UK, have been raised with the notion that their country rules, or ruled, the world. Imperial masters of Planet Earth, Team America: World Police. In Britain, the existence of such a notion is less logical – I blame the glut of period dramas – but America is culturally and politically soaked in recent Cold War propaganda, built on the fallacy of the American Dream. They are a country of slogans. And the idea that they might not be No1 any more? Oh, they are very unhappy about that. In fact, they’re angry. And Trump has fed on that anger like an opportunistic vampire.
From anger to action
Whatever their reasons, all of the above are angry. That is the key. No anger, no action. So, we don’t have to accept anything we don’t like. If the roles had been reversed last week and Clinton had won the Electoral college, but Trump the popular vote, would Trump’s supporters have shrugged and shut up? If the UK had voted to Remain by just 2 per cent, would Ukip have accepted the result? No. They’d be raging and they’d do something about it.
“If the public had voted for Remain I would’ve come away, regrouped, been disappointed for a short period of time, but then got back out on the road and started holding huge public rallies all over the country,” says Ukip MEP Paul Nuttall. “I suspect that those rallies, which would have been built on disappointment and anger, would have been huge events.”
If they wouldn’t have accepted a result they didn’t like, why should anyone else? That, friends, is democracy. The right to remain angry and do something about it.
“Conviction and principle is everything in politics,” says Nuttall. “None of us joined Ukip for a career; we did it out of principle. I will continue to campaign with my heart and my soul until we get real Brexit and until Britain is fully outside the EU.”
The US has elected a thoroughly terrible and terrifying human being as president. He has insulted women and minorities, encouraged violence, advocated the hacking of emails, championed extradition and gleefully fanned the flames of racial intolerance. Meanwhile, there’s poverty in the UK, war in the Middle East and homophobia, racism and tax evasion the world over. Don’t put up with it. Don’t simply blame someone else. Don’t grumble (that’s so British). Keep raging, until there’s no more need to be angry.
Image credits: Dan Evans, Rex/Getty