Weekend Roundup: Mutiny Against the Status Quo

At this stage in the American election season it is far from clear, despite early wins and losses, who the presidential nominees will be. As Julian Baggini writes, what is certain is that America, like much of Europe, is experiencing a mutiny against the status quo. The populist revolt against political and economic elites is spreading across borders everywhere except — so far — East Asia, where the prospects of the average person have risen instead of fallen over the past decade.

Behind the anger against the establishment is a constellation of factors that bleed into each other: the widespread conviction that the present system has become grossly unfair since the 2008-2009 financial crisis as incomes stagnate for most while wealth accumulates at the top; pervasive insecurity created by slow growth combined with rapid, job-displacing technological advance and wage-depressing globalization and, finally, a sense of identity loss as both the real and imagined scale of immigration challenges familiar ways of life.

As if a once upwardly mobile society now rigged against the middle class were not enough, everybody knows that the election process in the U.S., which is supposed to allow for self-correction in a democracy, has itself become corrupt. Jaded citizens have caught on to the fact that when big money rules over the many, when contributors count more than constituents, voting is a form of disenfranchisement disguised as consent of the governed.

When too many are excluded and too few benefit from the status quo, the governing consensus can no longer command allegiance. People look outside the mainstream for alternatives that fit their experience, answer their anxieties and suit their prejudices. Thus we see a range of rage that extends from nativist, xenophobic scapegoating of the even less fortunate to a passionate embrace —> Read More