1: An Introduction
Let’s talk about populism.
Populists pretend complex problems have simple answers. They like things so simple they become stupid. They like binary choices.
Populists demand you ‘take sides’. But isn’t it better not to take sides? Or at least not sides predefined by someone you may not wish to trust?
2: Divide and Rule
Polarisation is an authoritarian tool. It allows the manipulative to divide and rule.
But do we want to be divided, or ruled by immoral people?
Surely we have better things to think about, such as:
– Asserting our shared humanity
– Reversing environmental breakdown
– Creating a just and sustainable world?
Yet populists love division.
They like to polarise.
They like an enemy. If no enemy’s handy, they’ll make one.
They like to act the victim, no matter how rich or powerful or privileged they are.
But, by creating ‘an enemy’, victims are precisely what they tend to produce.
It’s one of the great ironies of modern politics: pretend victims, mostly powerful, privileged and wealthy, creating real victims: usually the powerless and the poor.
4: Base Instincts
Populism appeals to our worse instincts.
It appeals to emotions of hatred, resentment, rage, tribalism, ‘us’ and ‘them’.
Some instincts are good – but not all of them. They were developed over millions of years for a hunter gatherer existence…. but we are no longer hunter gatherers. Now we live in cities and inhabit virtual worlds. We exist within a complex web of connection, communication, interaction, participation.
In this complex modern world we need our better instincts to be brought into play:
Populism doesn’t care about caring. Compassion isn’t on its agenda.
Populism ignores facts. Predictably, therefore, populists dislike experts.
Experts know stuff. People who know stuff are a nuisance if you want to manipulate others rather than inform.
Populists, on the other hand, exaggerate, hype up, overblow, dissimulate and deceive.
For the rest of us this can be confusing. It distracts from the facts.
But for the populists it’s useful. It keeps them in the public eye. It all makes news.
“Forget facts!” populists declare. “Just LOOK AT US.”
Into our eyes… Not around the eyes… Into our eyes.
Soon we are mesmerised by the show. We can’t see that they’ve got their hands on our voting cards or their spiteful little fingers scrabbling at the grey matter within our skulls.
While we’re distracted populists get on with achieving what they want to achieve.
Populists like to smear, slander, denigrate and accuse.
They love to lie. Why not? They’ll say anything to make themselves popular.
And the tribalism they encourage forgives lies. Being part of the tribe becomes more important than integrity. The tribalised forget their own morality. They forget the importance of being honest.
Of course, for the populists, the lie’s not the thing.
They don’t care about lying – in fact, they like it.
The lies not the thing… The objective’s the thing:
– Grubby ambition
– Ugly greed
– Pretending to serve others while serving only themselves.
Why let the truth interfere with objectives like these?
8: And more lies
And yet…. would you be happy if your brother, sister, father or mother were a liar?
Would you be keen to be known to be a liar yourself?
Is lying the example we want to set our children, our colleagues or our friends?
And, if not, we have to ask ourselves, “Is it truly acceptable – if we think about it for just a moment – for a President or a Prime Minister to be a liar?”
I’m sure it’s becoming clear from this discussion that populism is immoral.
Populists are serially dishonest, serially unreliable, serially self-serving, serially in it for number one.
They deny equality, kindness, our shared humanity, our compassionate human nature.
They create dissension, division, hatred, bloodshed, even war.
How can that possibly be moral?
How can it be moral to manipulate others rather than seek to explain – and, with honesty and accuracy, seek to persuade?
10: Resisting Populism
How do we resist populism?
At present it seems all-powerful – in the ascendant. It’s everywhere.
Populist leaders seem able to get away with anything…
One thing we can try is morality.
Not an old-fashioned, out-of-date, archaic morality – but a morality designed to tackle the issues of the 21st Century.
And the advantages of morality?
It’s hard to attack, slander or smear.
How can you condemn someone for being moral?
Morality is about caring for others.
How can you attack someone for caring for others?
Morality is about our shared humanity. Populism is about divide and rule.
11: A simple message
And morality’s message is simple:
- Morality 1st
- Integrity 1st
- Honesty 1st
- Make Humanity Great Again.
How can populism compete with that?
www.ethicalintelligence.org “The ethics of common sense”
Twitter & Facebook: @EthicalRenewal
For a detailed discussion of the parallel topic of propaganda, see Ethical Intelligence by Luke Andreski: