Trump: a new historical phase?
For years we have seen, some in all parts of the world, the ascendance of a conservative way of thinking and of movements that defined themselves as rightists, seeking a society where order prevailed over liberty, traditional values over modern ones and the supremacy of authority over democratic liberties.
This phenomenon derives from many factors, but principally from the erosion of the shared values that gave society cohesion and a sense of collective coexistence. The predominance of the capitalist culture which extolled individualism, unlimited accumulation of material goods and above all, competition, left little space for cooperation. It contaminated virtually all of humanity, creating an ethical-spiritual confusion with no sense of belonging to a single humanity that inhabited a Common Home. There emerged what Bauman calls the liquid society, where nothing is solid. To this must be added the post modern spirit of every thing goes, anything is OK, where nothing is important except to accomplish each individual’s objectives, according to his/her preferences.
Facing this dilution of guiding stars its dialectic opposite arose: the search for security, order, authority, clear norms and well defined paths. This type of vision is found in conservatism, the political, ethical and religious right. It is just one step away from Nazi-Fascism, as in Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, Portugal’s Salazar and Spain’s Franco.
These tendencies have been gaining social and political strength in Europe, Latin America and the United States. The judicial-parliamentarian class coup that deposed President Dilma Rousseff was molded by this conservative and rightist spirit. What followed was the implantation of clearly rightist politics, against the people, that deny social rights and is retrograde in cultural terms.
But that conservative tendency has reached its clearest fulfillment in the central power of the world system, the United States, as seen in the election of Donald Trump as its President. In the United States, conservatism and rightist politics express themselves without metaphors, in shameless, and even harsh, forms.
In his first actions as President, Trump began undoing the social accomplishments of Barack Obama. His clearest characteristics are nationalism, patriotism, conservatism and isolationism.
Trump’s inaugural address is terrifying: “from now on a new vision will rule our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be America first”. The “first” here must be understood as “only the United States will matter”. With evident arrogance Trump radicalized his vision at the end of his speech: ”Together we will make America strong again. We will make America prosperous again. We will make America proud again. We will make America secure again. And together we will make America great again”.
Underlying these words is the ideology of the “manifest destiny”, of the exceptionality of the United States, always present in the previous Presidents, even in Obama. This is to say that the United States has a unique and divine mission in the world, to carry her values of rights, of private property and of liberal democracy to all humanity.
The world does not exist for Donald Trump. And if it exists, is seen in a negative form. Trump breaks the ties of solidarity with traditional allies, such as the European Union and leaves each country free for eventual ventures against their historical adversaries, opening the way to the expansionism of regional powers, including eventual lethal wars.
We can expect anything from Trump’s personality. Used to shady dealings such as, in general terms, the real estate New York business, without political experience, he can unleash hugely threatening crises for the rest of humanity, as for example, an eventual war with China or North Korea, where the use of nuclear weapons would not be excluded.
Trump’s personality shows deviant psychological characteristics, narcissistic and with an overblown ego, bigger than his own country.
The phrase that scares us is this: “from this day forward, a new vision will govern our land”. I do not know if he is thinking only of the United States or of the planet Earth. Probably to him the two are the same. If that were true, we would have to pray that the worst for the future of the civilization does not come to pass.
Leonardo Boff Theologian-Philosopher and of the Earthcharter Commission