Not the End of the World

If I let the events of the last few days go by without a word, I’d be failing as a writer.

The hysteria is real. Donald Trump is the next President of the United States. Social media has exploded. Race hate is on the rise. Politics has, after so many predictable years, suddenly got very interesting indeed. The UK’s decision to leave the EU is old news: there’s a larger finger on the big red button. The race for the White House may have split the States, but everybody would agree that America’s new president can mean only one thing: change.

In one of the strangest turns of events I’ve ever witnessed, the man widely heralded as the most laughable of all of the presidential candidates of the campaign has defied all expectations and, despite a slew of racial slurs, misogynistic remarks and just about anything and everything else that might have destroyed any other runner-up, Trump has surged into power and we must now accept the fact that, like it or not, the controversial tycoon is now one of the most most powerful men on Earth.

That is, as long as there is an Earth for him to police. There’s no denying it: so many of us believed that a Trump presidency would be the forerunner of the apocalypse.

But is it really?

Now bear with me, as I’m going to do something very radical and very out-of-character, and I’m going to suggest that a Donald Trump presidency may be exactly what the world needs right now.

Now, why on earth would I say something like that? How could a see-sawing, prejudiced, misogynistic, arch-capitalist with his hands on the nuclear codes ever be a good idea? Well, for starters, I never said it was a good idea, nor that it sat well with me at all. However, I’m slowly coming around to thinking that it might not be the travesty it first seemed (Or maybe I’m just disillusioned with reality after Brexit).

I’ll do my best to explain. Firstly, the mere fact that a firebrand like Trump managed to beat the system and defy all expectations means that the status quo has been given a serious shakedown. The slump of pendulum politics is officially over. Granted, Trump was no saint, but Clinton’s track record made it difficult for the Democrats from the very beginning. Bernie might have been our hero, and it’s easy to believe that he would have led the Democrats to victory, but something tells me that the United States would have sooner seen a certified bigot in the White House before electing a socialist. Old habits die hard. But it’s this desperate adherence to the status quo that has brought us to this. People are sick and tired of the ways things are, the way things have been for so long. Trump offered to give them that change. Clinton had a tried-and-true dustpan and brush, Trump was offering a Dyson. It’s as simple as that.

In that sense, the election of Donald Trump ought to be seen as a triumph, not just of prejudice, but of change. Maybe next time the Democrats will provide a more idealistic individual, one unmarred by scandal and unfettered by the chains of regularity. In the interests of good politics, let’s hope so.

So why now? Here’s the sticky bit. Think back to the last time there was ever all-out war between the world powers. I’m not talking Cold War meddling, I’m talking boots-on-the-ground assault. 1945. That’s over seventy years ago. Since then we’ve meddled with countries across the globe, but it’s been all quiet in the Western Front. And seventy years is a very long time to go without war by Western standards. Meanwhile the US, the UN, the EU, all of these ‘peace-keeping’ bodies have been policing the world, trying to resolve conflicts left, right and centre – and, in many cases, deliberately capitalizing on them. But the clock is ticking. If history tells us one thing, it’s that nothing ever stays the same forever.

I believe that we’ve been living through a Pax Romana, a necessary ceasefire. As long as everybody did as they were told, the peace would hold. But this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. Humans are naturally belligerent, and we’d be fooling ourselves to believe otherwise. We have so much capacity for love and compassion, but instinct cannot be denied. Conflict is one of the most natural elements of existence and we’ve been stemming it for so long. It may not have looked like it until recently, but we’ve been sitting on a volcano for a long time now. The pressure is mounting and it’ll blow before too long, with dire consequences for us all.

How could that ever be good? Again, it’s not. It’s terrible, and when war comes, I will be just as distraught as the rest of us. But, sooner or later, it is necessary. Resolving conflict by removing it from the equation can only work so many times, just as taking painkillers is no substitute for a cure. In the end, perhaps the best thing to do is to fight it out, to let it all come to a head. The rise of terrorism, the refugee crisis, pitifully low voter turnouts and the wave of race hate that’s sweeping the West… These are all the signs of a world that’s bristling for a fight. Between who, I cannot say. But it’s in the air.

Previously, wars have not only brought long periods of hostility and dissatisfaction to a decisive end, but they’ve resulted in massive social upheaval, often with various positive side-effects. In that one instance, war may save us all. I dread to think what may happen to this world if things go on the way they are.

Trump might not be the one to start the War That Is To Come, but you could interpret his election as the first of many thrown stones. Of course, it could all be a storm in a teacup, and the Mexican Wall and the ‘complete shutdown on all Muslims entering the United States’ may be as likely to materialize as UKIP’s £350m pledge to the NHS, but if we’re due a decade of change, for good or ill, this seems like the obvious trigger.

So what can we do? For starters, we can try to learn from our mistakes. The Democrats lost because they believed their idea of democracy would work. It didn’t, and now the age-old system has failed. It’s time to search for a new way of doing things, before it’s too late. I don’t pretend to have even the first idea what the new way might entail, but I can see plainly enough that holding to the status quo is no longer a reliable option. 

We should also get learning languages. Now. Obviously as a linguist I have more than a touch of bias here, but I mean it. In the current climate where nations the world over are becoming more and more insular as ‘us and them’ politics take the floor, it is more important than ever that we learn to interact with the world outside our own. Whatever you think of Trump or his policies, blind, beer-touting isolationism is a one-way road to destruction in the long run. So the EU has failed? Don’t walk away from it. Work on it. Change it. I’ve met so many non-Europeans who fell foul of the EU and had little love for it, so – despite espousing the Remain camp myself – I can see why people think it has failed them. But we could do so much more by working together. It’s just a question of time. English may be the world language for now, but there’s no reason to believe that’s the way it will always be, nor should it.

When Trump takes office next year, it’s difficult to know exactly what will happen. The bookies have been wrong time and again this year, so it’s hardly worth consulting them anymore. But if war comes, in ten years or in twenty, don’t say I didn’t warn you. BB x

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