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Word power: populism, “post-truth”, anger, Trump, Brexit, elites…

This post highlights three interesting essays on the above.

Only one author is primarily a journalist; the other two are, respectively, an English physicist/cosmologist and an Australian (of Greek ancestry) who is best known for his provocative literary fictions.

(my photo depicts “Donald T. Rump” – a Black Swan in non-heraldic mode, at Lake Monger)

Physicist/cosmologist Stephen Hawking begins his essay, thus:

As a theoretical physicist based in Cambridge, I have lived my life in an extraordinarily privileged bubble.

He declares his optimism not extinguished; Hawking believes humankind can be persuaded to share more, care more…thereby granting our species a sustainable future.

His essay’s final words:

…but it will require the elites, from London to Harvard, from Cambridge to Hollywood, to learn the lessons of the past year. To learn above all a measure of humility.

Click this to read all of Stephen Hawking’s This is the most dangerous time for our planet 

Also published by “The Guardian” in December 2016 was John Harris’s essay, The lesson of Trump and Brexit: a society too complex for its people risks everything.

As Harris makes very clear, his essay is greatly indebted to a book published in 1988 – US anthropologist and historian Joseph Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies.

Says Harris, summarising Tainter’s book:

One key pattern, it argues, applies to whole chunks of history: the way that increasingly complicated systems initially deliver big economic benefits, only for diminishing returns to set in, as systems of power and control become overstretched. Ever-increasing burdens are not matched by material rewards, and popular resentment kicks in.

In December 2016 Harris sought Tainter’s perspective on the “triumphs” of Trump, Brexit etc. Click here.

The December-January issue of “The Monthly” includes a superb essay on the poltics of anger.

Fine as his literary fictions are, Christos Tsiolkas is equally potent as essayist/ social commentator.

He has a particularly keen nose for/aversion to self-serving bullshit, smugness and snobbery – most especially as indulged in by oneself, or by one’s “own side” – however defined.

I urge you to read all of The Second Coming…and to heed its subtitle :The politics of rage won’t let us listen to one another.

One paragraph:

The “straitjacket of political correctness” is not that it doesn’t allow the deplorable to be expressed, but the expectation that we must all use a language governed by academic and bourgeois forms of expression. This presupposes a knowledge and a dexterity in the use of such language, and in its most elitist forms silences conflict and cannot recognise humour. It is not necessarily anti-immigrant to pose the question of how Europeans are to maintain a sophisticated welfare system with a concurrent commitment to massive migration, when the original consensus between labour and capital has collapsed. The concerns that working-class people have about the entrenchment of generational poverty, and the resulting breakdown of family cohesion in their communities, are not always anti-feminist. And to be proud of one’s ethnic and cultural background is not always to be racist, just because that history might be “white” or “Anglo” or Celtic. To cede such questions, concerns and desires to the most virulently xenophobic and right wing of politicians and parties is disastrous.


Published in opinions and journalism word power


  1. Feroze Khan Feroze Khan


  2. Sam Grumont Sam Grumont


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