Sunél’s Blog | The other side

Sunél Veldtman, | 06 November 2020

The end of democracy and capitalism is in sight. Should Donald Trump win the US election, the outcome is certain: a white supremacist apocalypse will follow. That’s how Biden supporters feel.

On the other hand, The Financial Times quotes Mike Pence declaring, “with frosty certainty that in Biden’s America ‘you won’t be safe’…[and] that the Trumpian nightmare features a socialist apocalypse in which the suburban idyll is invaded by low-rent riff-raff, city streets reduced to carpets of broken glass through which looting anarchists carry off appliances of their choice before setting your parked SUV ablaze”.

The point is that more than any election in human memory, this one is being fought from two opposing corners of the ring. Each side is convinced that the other side’s world view is so destructive that it will result in the end of America.

There is no middle ground remaining – no place for people with considered thoughts who can grasp the complexity of government policy and the uncertainty of outcomes. There is no place for moderates. The ‘win by fuelling apocalyptic fear’ is not unique to America – it describes the strategies of politicians across many countries in the world, including South Africa.

Neither was this America created by Donald Trump. He is capitalising on the current divisive demons ruling public opinions. It’s difficult to understand exactly how they got there. Lack of education? Social media algorithms? Unscrupulousness of modern media? Money-driven politicians? I’m sure that there are already reams of research on this topic and that we will still unpack this phenomenon for centuries.

Somehow the people are again banging at the gates of palaces and those on the inside and outside are fearing for their lives. The people want someone from the other side to burn at the stake or face the death squad. We haven’t come very far in our humanity since the Middle Ages.

It will be helpful if we keep this perspective in mind when we engage with the news or even those ‘from the other side’. In order to thrive, we must keep a distance from the fight. We must distance ourselves from the fear that’s fuelling the fight in the first place. Fear is never a good motivator for sound decisions and it’s never a good companion for good living either.

However, in removing ourselves from the battleground, we can too easily dissociate from our humanity and become isolated. Removing ourselves from the ideological battlefield does not have to mean separating ourselves from people. We must reach out, figuratively, when we can’t reach out in person.  We must embrace the brokenness and fear of ourselves and others to survive this time.

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