“Mariner has alluded in the past to the difference between Chimpanzees and Bonobos (essentially the same as Chimpanzees). Chimpanzees have some aggressive genes because during their evolutionary era food and space were an issue in northern Africa but the Bonobos lived in southern Africa during an era of plentiful food and space. Bonobos chill; Chimpanzees find reasons to be contentious.” (Post – Of Mice, Men and Power Aug 29 2018)
Also, bonobos live in a matriarchal society whereas chimpanzees live in a patriarchal society. In both groups, males are free to mate any female in estrus unless intercepted by a dominate male. Also in both groups, females are known to have an occasional rendezvous on the side – an evolutionary compulsion to sustain a strong genome. Unpleasantly, the males of human ancestors, the chimps, every once in a while will go on a rampage waging war with other breeds of monkeys brutally killing and eating them.
Making a left turn here, could populism be related to a chimpanzee rampage? The ethics are the same: take no prisoners. Presumably the behavior both in chimps and in humans is provoked by a situation that suggests something has to be done. Organized military action doesn’t seem to fit; war is planned and organized and seeks a worthy goal. Populism, however, seems to fit like a glove.
This correlation explains the disregard Donald’s base has for his behavior. When advocates are asked why they tolerate his many shortcomings, they simply say, “He’s doing what we want him to do” – take no prisoners and drain the swamp not of ne’er do wells but of establishmentarians, a different breed of monkey for sure.
Making another turn away from anthropology and considering the sociological phenomenon called populism, one may ask a number of questions:
What is populism?
History tends to remember populism as an angry crowd of dissenters who finally revolt, similar to the chimp rampage. Populism is more than an angry crowd; it is a symptom within a culture that reflects disarray and instability. Members of the culture begin to feel insecure and attempt to protect themselves from uncontrolled or unknown circumstances. Insecurity affects the entire culture. For example, political parties become combative rather than collaborative; religion loses inclusivity and replaces it with exclusivity; neighborhoods become reclusive and class conscious; hoarding of money and possessions is more important; individuals seek like-minded others and tend to form large cliques; ethos is replaced with transactional values.
In the realm of culture and politics, this behavior is known as identity politics. It continues to grow in hostility as the culture becomes less supportive.
What causes populism?
Anxiety. Not necessarily the surface, immediately felt anxiety but rather the deep, often unarticulated awareness that things aren’t well. Speaking to the US populist movement, the fact that salaries have dragged behind inflation for four decades threatens family solvency; many labor class workers can no longer afford what most would call a normal, satisfying life. This threat to family solvency has created a sense of crisis.
A notable benchmark was when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) passed in 1993 and significant numbers of factory jobs began to move to Mexico and Canada. Since then, automation and international corporatism have added to the job/salary decline. Other factors that will cause populism: “We went to school, worked hard, followed the rules and now we’re unemployed.” Or, “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”
Another motive is that public support, access to medical and other services have become more difficult to deal with, and the social structure in general has shifted (for example the middle class is splitting in two with the lower half drifting into poverty). And another is corruption. Finally, a dysfunctional government, state or federal, leaves a feeling in individuals of being left out and unimportant. In the United States at the moment all these causes are in play.
How can we stop populism?
The causes of the current populist movement have been building for some time. This time it is not a matter of disgruntlement or a single segment of society; a good analogy would be a major hurricane. Repairing each one of the causes listed in the last few paragraphs will take years of restructuring. The solutions are not simply reparation through better salaries, ethical control over corporations and voting in a new government. Things are so bad today that fixes must be included that prevent further damage.
Some repairs are more urgent than others:
The macroeconomic model must be remodeled completely; the US has become a plutocracy – the rich run the government.
The social safety net must be reset to support massive job loss as artificial intelligence becomes implemented.
Taxes, benefits, health, and other institutional services must be supported strongly to assure functionality in the immediate future.
Society in an automated age will be strange to most citizens; extreme swings in wealth and opportunity as well swings in poverty and deprivation will occur. Effort to constrain these swings is necessary using taxes and guaranteed income.
Democratic processes must be restored to fair and meaningful representation for a population that has outgrown the image of an evenly dispersed population perceived in 1787.
In short, populism will be with US citizens for a long time.
Finally, the bogey man: climate change.
US readers should be glad they live in a democratic nation. There are eight western nations with populist uprisings; the authoritarian nations aren’t having it as well as the democratic ones.