2016 was the year of the word post-truth, Oxford Dictionaries decided (I believe, based on a meticulous process of the highest term looked up for the year). It reflected on a year in which politicians from many different countries decided to ever more play to emotion of people. That’s not a bad idea: base instincts are base instincts for a reason, they lead us to survival.

It’s just difficult when how people feel can wildly diverge from what is – in my opinion – in their best interest. Or maybe I’m just negatively biased through my experience as a liberal elite. I don’t think that’s a wrong accusation. There is a fundamental disconnect between different demographics across the Western hemisphere. (A possible susceptibility to media manipulation because of this comes to mind.)

Of course elections have run their course – we have committed to exiting the European Union; we have committed to a President name Donald Trump; we face those realities now with no going back. But for those unhappy with these outcomes, they must persuade the majorities (or indeed, in America, the minorities) that led to the victories they didn’t want.

On the weekend the Women’s March against Washington took place, with replicas around the world in places where people objected to the Trump inauguration and everything they projected into what it stood for. That was one option, which Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Assistant Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, made open to criticism, or at least made open to alternatives.

Dr Jennifer Rohn, scientist at University College London, and also occasional The Guardian writer (I promise I read more diverse sources of news than what’s linked to here), proposes that to restore “sanity”, as I’ll call it, purveyors of truth and facts need to become part of popular culture more. She’s not wrong.

I have no idea if my perception is correct on this, of all issues, but I had the feeling people are sick of pop culture personalities opining on political issues. Gary Neville strikes nerves, and Lily Allen upsets people,  with views I share though I can’t express them quite the same way. Arron Banks may not be a celebrity but he is in the public eye. These are people airing opinions that have no idea what life is like for the ordinary person, and they certainly don’t get paid to be economists or statisticians.

Regular people don’t think that people who are famous enough to be covered by the media for their opinions know what real life is like. It reminds me of one of my ambitions when I was a young girl. I always wanted to make things better quite directly, and work (like Barack Obama, surprisingly) on the ground in neighbourhoods to improve them. Knock on doors day in and out, survey the people as to what their troubles were and then finding out if other people shared them. What community resources could solve them.

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Currently establishment politicians are on the outs. They might stay there for a while. But they need to prove their worth with community relations (well, community building, I suppose, in some places). They (alongside the scientists mentioned by Dr Rohn) need to change perceptions as to whether climate change is real, whether immigrants are making everything worse, and that they – the establishment politicians – can fix these things. Otherwise the trust they’ve lost now won’t be easily regained, I believe.

 

(Photo credit goes to the COD Newsroom. The GIF is taken from The Simpsons, Season 7, Episode 23 – “Much Apu About Nothing”)

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