The election of Donald Trump, who is going to become the next US President, and
who in his presidential campaign promised to build a wall between the US and
Mexico, coincided with the anniversary of the demolition of another wall - the Berlin
The Berlin Wall was erected in 1961, and destroyed on November 9th, 1989. Bringing down The Berlin Wall symbolises the end of communism, a painful era of division within Germany. The President elect’s promised wall also seems symbolic. Moreover, this election coincided with the anniversary of Pogromenacht, a night of xenophobic hatred which resulted in the first wave of extermination of Jews.
There is a theory of cycles proposed by Arthur Schlesinger, who analysed US history and attempted to explain why there are intermittent periods of dominance of particular political wings. Like Ortega y Gasset, Schlesinger perceived the masses as the primary cause of change, a source of energy swinging the pendulum of the “national mood”. Masses give rise to cycles by adopting attitudes which shift with time. Those attitudes are correlated with aggregate disillusionment. They come at varying periods, but are inevitable. When sooner or later the reality created by politicians does not match voters’ expectations, the masses change sides. Cycles, as described by Schlesinger, are like musical perpetuum mobile with the possibility of being influenced by external forces -- the majorities. According to Schlesinger once the cycle is created it becomes “self-generating and autonomous” with the masses having the ability to create the right conditions for these cycles to appear. According to this theory it is not the pundits or intellectuals, but large groups like swarm intelligence that dictate the direction that history will take.
This is just one of the theories which can be adapted to provide explanations of what, to many, seems an irrational choice between the two candidates for the 45th US presidency. Thomas Kuhn had a theory, similar to Schlesinger’s, which by extrapolation could also help explain the recent wave of ‘irrational choices’ taking place around the world. Kuhn proposed that unexpected occurrences in science trigger scientific revolutions, which cause the “paradigm shifts”.
New paradigms create new realities. With Donald Trump as the 45th US President, Brexit, the Syrian refugee crisis, problems within the EU, and other current challenges, this new period in modern history can be a step back and away from the cosmopolitan, globalized world. This brings to mind The Butterfly Effect, when insignificant events, like droplets overflowing a chalice, can act as incendiaries for global transformations. Could it be that smaller events unleashed underlying fears, which in turn predisposed masses to divisions, isolationism and elusively beneficiary national self-centrism?
Whatever the causes of the state of the political arena, life for each and every of us goes on, and by the evolutionary principles we need to adapt and keep our bearings in this new reality. Perhaps now, more than ever, we should follow the advice promoted by the fathers of the Enlightenment: to stay united with those like-minded and, as Voltaire suggested, respectful of those who think differently. Despite all odds, with the Trumps swaggering through the White House we must now find ways of diplomatic cooperation rather than teasing the monsters and instigating more fears.
During his visit to Berlin in 1987, Ronald Reagan, whose electoral motto “Make America Great Again” Trump adopted, famously said: “Tear down this wall!” . In the same speech Reagan added that “Across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom."
Apparently, roughly half of the voting population of the World’s leading nation seem to be driven by the ideas such as “guns for all”, and divisions - erecting walls, these physical and metaphorical. This only shows how brittle ‘norms’ are, how fast paradigms can shift, and how relative the values are that we often perceive as universal truths. Trump promises to make America great again, the question is whether he is going to do it in a civil way, or by force and submission, tromping on all that Obama has built.