The Time Traveler: Hugh Ellis

Joe Biden has squeezed through to become US President, and Kamala Harris will be the first-ever US Vice-President of Asian and African descent.

This should be good news, but much of the TV and internet feed out of the world’s most economically and militarily powerful country in the past week does not leave me optimistic about the nature of humankind.

For one thing, there have been the Donald Trump ‘sore loser’ press conferences, where he whined about this and that, claimed that an election his government organized was somehow rigged, against him, while providing no evidence.

It’s quite the spectacle – entertaining, troubling, and fundamentally sad, all at the same time – to watch a certain kind of wealthy white man crumble when he realizes he might have to relinquish power.

There, but for the Grace of Dog, go I. Eish.

The Donald’s circus clown performance would have been funny if people’s lives – not least black and LGBT+ lives, lives of people without medical insurance – didn’t depend upon this election result and the policies the future President enacts.

In a way, for the middle and upper classes, TV/ social media election coverage is basically blood sport, the kind of spectacle that gladiators in ancient Rome or attenders of a public execution in 17th century England would have recognized and understood.

What worried me is how many Namibians seem to support this guy.

A disturbing thought I kept having last week is, many Namibians would vote for a dark-skinned version of Donald Trump, and perhaps even for the white variety.

It seems someone who taps into people’s deepest fears about social disorder will always be popular. A politician can hide behind legitimate patriotism to oppress the most vulnerable – and crowds – in every country – will cheer him for it.

Maybe I am wrong, but witness the reaction among some people, at least in my community, to the recent ShutItAllDown protests against gender-based violence: it often seemed that getting one’s shopping done on time, or not being offended by vulgar talk, was more important than women’s lives. Witness how some Namibians, even young men who should know better, get so mightily offended about homosexuality.

If that’s not a form of African Trumpism, I don’t know what is.

I’m not even worried about how the US, or the business world, or the Reality TV industry or whatever, produced such a rotten egg as The Donald.
What does worry me is that at least 40 per cent of adults in a highly educated nation, said through their vote that Donald Trump was a good guy who had been doing a great job for the past four years.

And let’s not forget the Tump-lites in various parts of the world. Boris Johnson in England. Silvio Berlusconi in Italy. The current Polish government that seems intent on pushing back women’s rights.

I suppose I am mourning a kind of progressive belief system. You know – freedom for all, progressive education, an ideal of world citizenship, Keynesian economics where Government steps in on behalf of the poor.

Countries like Britain, France, Italy, and especially Germany, were a pile of rubble in 1945 at the end of the Second World War. Through progressive policies – education, free health care, women’s rights, liberal immigration laws, trade unions – they were proper counties again by 1975, just 30 years later.

Why is the West turning their back on that model? Why has Africa been unable to do what Europe did, and Asia is busy doing?

Okay, I am an academic; I know some of the reasons for the above. But still, the fact we still have to have these conversations is depressing in itself.

Maybe there are new starts – new growing points in social and economic life.

The fact that Trump was defeated, largely thanks to African American women, was one.

The ShutItAllDown movement at home at least suggests Namibian youth are not prepared to take some of the nonsense us middle-aged folk and seniors dismissed as ‘just the way governments/ men/ the Police/ things are’.

Young people seem to be involving themselves in politics again, not content to be ruled by their inferiors. Unlike too many bright young people of my generation, those who came of age in the 90s and early 2000s, they’ve seen that business, NGO-work, and entrepreneurship, as good as those things may be, are not going to save us.

That may be the only silver lining in this rather dismal sky.

Hugh Ellis is a Namibian citizen and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Communication of the Namibia University of Science and Technology. The views he expresses here are personal views. Follow Hugh’s blog at http://ellishugh.wordpress.com