I read a great piece recently titled, The Rise of American Authoritarianism, which seeks to explain the ascent of Donald Trump – https://www.vox.com/2016/3/1/11127424/trump-authoritarianism
What made the article universal was that it spoke of latent conservatism and fear, where people see change as a threat and would rather life, not only stay the same, but return to some idealised past.
This desire, for a return to ‘the good old days’, drives people to resist and reject social progress for a maintenance of their place in an established social hierarchy. So often we hear such conservatism dressed up as a commitment to traditional values, when what’s really going on is a wish to maintain privilege – to stave off social change and re-establish a past order. As Schopenhauer once said, “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”
The great struggles of the 1960s sought to disrupt social hierarchies in the quest for civil rights for the disadvantaged, for social progress for minorities, for greater equality and tolerance towards those different to the majority. The triumph of Trump proves we have gone the other way. There is now more animus towards people who are different and greater fear about redressing the social order.
The Indian Jesuit priest and psychotherapist, Anthony de Melo, wrote that there is only love and fear in this world. The rise of Donald Trump, on the back of latent authoritarianism, shows us that fear has the upper hand at present – it is almost our civil war moment. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln; we can be governed by our better angels or succumb to our darker demons.
Schopenhauer said, “Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.” It is only when we imagine something better that we will rise above our fear to a place of equality, fairness and justice.