(Source: Dutch Public Broadcasting)
“I am afraid the election of Trump has marked a turning point.”
– Nadia Dala
As a European, I think we can learn from the rise to power of President Trump in the United States.
In many European countries, populism and anti-establishment feelings have been simmering under the surface for many years. Populist movements and extreme right politicians have been on the rise for quite a while now.
But I feel that we are reaching a turning point, and I am afraid the election of Trump has marked that turning point.
Only this week the prime minister of the Netherlands — our neighbors to the north — launched a media campaign against people he describes as “different.” In a reaction to this campaign, the president of the Flemish liberals in Belgium not only agreed with him, she branded so-called “difficult” Muslim behavior as unwanted.
Recently, our Belgian secretary of Asylum and Migration, Theo Francken, was selected as one of the most popular politicians in my country via a poll. Francken has a reputation of flirting with extreme right ideas.
Many ideas, thoughts and debates we are having now in the Low Countries were taboo and politically incorrect until a few years ago. Nowadays, a certain “bravery” to tell it like it is has been spreading like a virus in both politics and the media, especially online.
Leftist politicians like the leader of our Flemish Green Party have recently been trolled online. She is of Turkish origin, and people are telling her she should “go back home.” Political alliances with extreme right parties are no longer taboo for at least two mainstream political parties in northern Belgium.
But personally, I am not afraid. I won’t be bullied.
(Nadia Dala is a senior lecturer at Thomas More college university in Belgium and a News-Decoder correspondent.)
“High tides of populism can wipe away human rights progress.”
– Urvashi Bundel
While Donald Trump’s cabinet choices demonstrate his commitment to the rich and powerful, the U.S. commitment to human rights is falling into an abyss.
The irony is that authoritarian leaders are coming to power not as a result of coups or revolts, but as a result of free and democratic elections. From Europe to India to the United States, autocratic populists are on a roll not because they have illegally forced themselves on whole populations but because voters have chosen to support them.
Perhaps, this is the right time to revisit Étienne de La Boétie’s “Against Voluntary Servitude: Discourse on the Fall of Tyrants.”
Following the atrocities in Rwanda in the 1990s, the world made great strides with the emergence of international instruments like the international criminal court, launched in 2002, and the principle of responsibility to protect, adopted in the United Nations in 2005.
But high tides of populism can wash all that away. Incessant waves can weaken our fundamental rights and human dignity.
There is no doubt that if the U.S. president overtly disparages human rights, then the agents of advocacy are weakened. “If Donald Trump is elected on the basis of what he has said already — and unless that changes — I think it is without any doubt that he would be dangerous from an international point of view,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said last October.
When you spot in your leader symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder — possessing an exaggerated sense of self-importance, requiring constant admiration and validation, taking advantage of others, possessing a sense of entitlement — then you should beware that your own fundamental rights, indeed our collective human rights, are under siege!
(Urvashi Bundel is a specialist in public international law and international criminal law. She is currently working for the United Nations with a focus on conflict zones.)
“This is the vengeance of an old order.”
– Sue Landau
After a week of Trump as U.S. president, I am now convinced that analogies with the 1930s are not exaggerated. He has spent a week signing away as many rights as he could. He and his team have attacked free media, immigrants, the very notion of facts and even world peace — think China.
No, he is not going to be mellowed by office. On the contrary, it is going to feed his megalomania. This is a power grab. But by whom, and for what?
Here’s a theory: Trump represents old capitalism fighting for its survival as technology and environmental imperatives lead humanity in a different direction.
It isn’t Kentucky coal miners, it isn’t racist, conservative Middle America, it isn’t even the top one percent, some of whom are financing the new order. It’s the likes of the Koch brothers and Exxon Mobil. This would explain why Trump backs fossil fuels against economic logic. It’s about his cronies, not economics.
So build pipelines, approve mega-mergers (just watch Bayer/Monsanto), keep super profits flowing. This is the vengeance of an old order against an emerging new way. Let’s hope it’s a last gasp.
(Sue Landau is a News-Decoder correspondent who has worked for the International Herald Tribune, Reuters and the Investor’s Chronicle.)