Is this a moment?


Trump’s electoral victory will have passed the vast majority of the world’s citizens by, too busy surviving. Even many in America – when they hear about it – will have simply shrugged at another distant twist in things beyond their control. For relatively few – but still a huge number – it will have been a visceral shock. A sickening blow to all they work for and believe in, leaving them full of fear. And for others it brings a moment of profound joy – opportunity to escape the remote power of the political elite who have promised much and delivered nothing.
As you’d probably expect I started in the ‘visceral shock’ category. Due to head off to Belgium and present at an event on democracy, my instinct was to hide under the bed. Now I am heading home after an inspired few days and lunch just now with three citizens of Ghent. In different ways they are each charged up with energy to confront and change political systems that are completely out of sync with the reality of our age. (A few years ago I’d not have bet on my sharing thoughts with an ex Belgian Pirate in Ghent). Humankind has got the political leaders it deserves – from Putin to Trump – because we have let them build and retain the political systems.
If (and it’s a massive if) Trump can be prevented from causing the mayhem and damage many fear, then the madness of America electing a deranged cartoon character as their Head of State may provide the catalyst for people to move en masse to reclaim politics.

About the author

Peter Macfadyen

Social activist, ex Mayor and Leader of Frome Town Council, author, public speaker, undertaker, grandfather.


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  • Hey Peter, we spoke after the debate Wednesday, in Ghent. I just ordered your book and am eager to study it. I think you are too harsh for human kind. There is so much we don’t know and many political processes we don’t (yet) understand create the leaders that rule us. Even though we live in an individual society in which everyone is judged by his choices, there is still a lot we don’t have in control. And so do our elections create leaders that might be beyond our control. Plz give humanity some slack.

    • Klaas
      Thanks for your comment. Of course you are right that we/I should allow for the mistakes we will continue to make. But we have been at this (democracy) for what? 2000 years and what’s happening now is really poor given that!
      What’s more, we do not have the luxury of more mistakes – Trump may send Mexicans home; insult women; bomb (or stop bombing) a few innocents……
      but if he goes for coal in a big way and lets the carbon leash of America then all of us are even more likely to be in serious trouble. We cannot afford to create ‘leaders’ who don’t believe in science!

  • I think I probably agree that unfortunately ‘we have got the leaders we deserve’. People that I meet that are struggling, economically and socially, to keep their heads above water do not have the resources to oppose anything. Those that are surviving well enough are smug, consumerist and support the system or whinge about things like climate change whilst burning off resources at a rapid rate. Solidarity is missing. Everyone is facing things alone, or part of a little family group. It will take a crisis to shake things up. How big a crisis? Will the result be for the better or the worse?

  • Pogo, a cartoon character created by Walt Kelly, once said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us!”

    If we are concerned about politics, we must look at ourselves – with as much objectivity as we can muster. There are at least two aspects of our nature that lay at the core of our political problems, our tendency to pursue our own interest and our tendency toward partisanship.

    The pursuit of self-interest is a powerful force. Allowed free rein, it can produce an anti-social menace. Partisanship is a vital part of society, provided it is always a voice and never a power.

    If we want to improve our political existence, we must do at least two things: We must devise a political process that incorporates partisanship without letting partisans control the system, and we must learn to harness our tendency to pursue our own interest by devising ways to make probity and the ability to resolve public issues the traits required to achieve leadership positions.

    • Fred, I agree. Finding ways to produce pluralist government rather than polulist (which is -almost be definition- devisive and confrontational) must be a key.

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