“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!”
That’s a line from the movie Network, but it’s could be from the script of the Brexit referendum. Or the Trump campaign.
You know the feeling. Things aren’t going well, we desperately need a change, and we need to make a statement. Now.
So along comes a candidate or proposition that gives us a chance to tell the world how angry we are. Easy choice – I vote for it! That’ll show ’em! But then…oops, it passed, or we elected a bigmouthed know-nothing.
What have we done?
The people of Britain have some serious problems, beginning with a stagnant economy (especially outside London), and a massively uneven distribution of wealth. (Does this sound familiar, America?) The Brexit vote gave them a voice. But did they really want to leave the European Union, and risk an even greater economic dislocation? Unlikely.
Google UK has seen a huge jump in searches like “what happens if we leave the EU?” It’s a good bet that a lot of those who voted to leave didn’t know or care what would happen…they never expected to actually win.
For Americans, that’s the scary part. Few people actually want Donald Trump to be president, but voting for him is a great way to say you’re mad as hell. And a lot of Americans are mad as hell. It’s not just unemployed, old southern white guys, either. Many of us are furious about income inequality and guns (Trump used to be for gun control, right…?), and big banks – so why not send a message?
I once knew some people who were actually bomb-throwers. They were part of the Weather Underground (not the forecasting app), and they believed that blowing up (empty) buildings was a good way to get people to change things. Surely the Vietnam war would end if America started exploding! They succeeded in damaging a few buildings, accidentally killed a guy and a couple of themselves, and did a lot of damage to the antiwar movement. There are always unintended consequences to blowing things up.
Trump voters are often quoted as wanting to “tear it down” or “blow it up.” I get it. So do a lot of Brits. We want to yell and make our voices heard. We want to scare the bastards so that they’ll fix things.
But we didn’t really mean it about tearing it all down, did we?
One of the big questions of the Vietnam-era antiwar movement was how to make our voices heard. Sit-ins, marches, breaking windows, blowing things up? Writing? That’s what I was trying to figure out in the year of Some Way Outa Here.