Posted by Cameron @ 9:47 pm on July 22nd 2016

The Era of Fear

Today I made myself sad.

During work this morning I listened to the entirety of Donald Trump’s acceptance speech. It was not easy, but I plowed through the entire hour long tirade. What I heard has weighed on me all day and I’m still struggling this evening with the ramifications of my decision to listen. Struggling enough to hop back on here, watching the tumble weeds roll through our once hopping blog.

I am an optimist. I look around the world today and like what I see. Despite some challenges, we live in an age of unparalleled prosperity and peace. Billions fewer people are in poverty than mere decades ago. Health improvements stretch far and wide across the globe. Technology is enabling the human race to thrive in previously unimaginable ways. War is more infrequent and limited than any time in human history. International trade brings tremendous wealth to the world as a whole. Society is growing ever more tolerant and accepting.

Yet many do not share my world view. They’re are fearful of globalization. They’re fearful of immigration. They’re fearful of technology. They’re fearful of those not like them. They’re fearful of change.  

I understand why they’re afraid.

They see immigrants arrive and are told that these newcomers are a drain on society and are taking jobs deserved by natives. But they don’t know the value that immigrants bring to their adopted countries.

They see products which are made abroad for sale in their local shops and mourn the loss of domestic manufacturing. But they don’t know the value of being able to buy more efficiently produced merchandise (or the value of producing said merchandise to those who produce it).

They see technology and automation replacing work once done by humans and mourn the lost workers. But they forget the trend is as old as the first tool grasped by our ancestors and that technology is a force multiplier for humanity.

They see international organizations as a scourge on domestic sovereignty. But they fail to grasp how cooperation helps all involved.

They see a world in which they’re less wealthy than their neighbors and are jealous. But they forget that most are themselves are wealthier, healthier and more able to enjoy luxuries than at any time in recorded history.

Those who are afraid are a real demographic and one which has grown tremendously in the last 20 years. It’s a demographic which spans political parties and ideologies. It’s a demographic which spans continents and countries. It’s a demographic which ripped the UK out of the EU. It’s a demographic which made Trump the nominee of the GOP. It’s the demographic which yearns for the mercantile ways of yore. It’s the demographic of fear and regression.

How does one help instill hope in those jaded and scared?  How does one work to calm the irrational?

We’ve had eras like this before. Populations have always turned to strongmen throughout history when they’re afraid. They want strongmen to give them security. They want strongmen to protect them from economic realities. They want strongmen to tell them lies and reassure them that they’re the victims.

Trump scares the living daylights out of me and I see echoes of terrible people in his words and tone. But what truly saddens me is that he’s a reflection of a bigger issue. The fear and populism he represents is here to stay, until we appease those whose anger is channeled through him. Defusing anger is challenging. Defusing pessimism is even harder.

I’m sad because I don’t have an answer. The tide of populism is rising. Dark times are ahead, whether or not Trump continues to a presidency. There will be others who follow in his wake, both right and left.

Those who love liberty must not be silent. We must stand for hope in an era of fear. We must be for openness in an era of walls. We must stand for peace in an era of warmongering.