Offbeat 11 November 2016
I got all worked up about the US election result. I had given up on the thing until the Trump win happened. At that point I defaulted to somewhere between overwrought and miserable. My personal take on things is very different from what I heard. I’m not keen on sexism or racism, or presidential candidates who ask what a nuclear weapon is for if it goes unused.
On the other hand, who knows? There were war clouds around Hillary Clinton. And I have the sense that perhaps the best possible histories and futures are the ones that don’t happen.
Once the dust settled, I got to sitting down and thinking. The US has been an ideal, consciously when I was a kid, and that ideal remained on a subliminal level, despite the evidence of amoral corruption. I think that Trump will put the vestiges of my idealism to rest, but I have a sense that Clinton would have done so as well. At least I can now acknowledge my own naivety in that. My condolences to all my US friends on the nature of the election.
A lot of people got involved. Most of them, like me, were unable to cast ballots as they are not citizens. I realise now that my far-flung emotional exercise of democracy was pointless, just an upwelling of my own impulse towards humanity. The US is in the process of establishing a new normal. In a couple of years, we will be used to their president, and whatever he gets up to. In a couple of decades, it will be an event that is remembered in retrospect, but the impacts will be diminished as people contend with more immediate impacts on their lives.
History is little more than a notebook full of jottings that would otherwise be forgotten. Anything of use will be encoded in ongoing tactics, with a footnote to the year or month. Who reads footnotes anyway?
Now that the emotional moment has subsided, where does that leave me?
It leaves me right where I am, in my own reality and environment. That is the place where I can exercise influence and make a positive difference. I give a bit of time to the things that I think are important if not by trying to incorporate them in my work choices, then by adding to the thinking in my personal time.
Sometimes it works out and I can have the satisfaction of seeing something change. Sometimes it doesn’t, and I move on. I am smart enough to know when more effort will lead to the fuzzy point of nowhere.
I need to preserve the idealism of hope, and want to contribute, but I am challenged there as well. Voices have influence, and Trump has had a very loud voice. Aside from apparent sexual rapacity and a strand of racism, he has also espoused selfishness. He appears to say that we should keep what belongs to us and exclude others by not sharing.
Maybe there’s a lesson in that, but I will interpret it differently. I don’t want to be a global citizen. I don’t want to be an African. I am a Namibian, and within that universe I belong to my daughter, friends, a few people I am very fond of, and the people who make up my community.
I am faced with the world every day. When a rock star goes out in a sputtering blaze of stupidity, I am expected to share the emotional outpouring. The whole thing applies to the Trump Clinton conniption. I don’t want to share in the hive mind.
Every coin has a downside though. If I cut myself off, I become a thing on my own. I lose a large part of the diversity of human thought and emotion. It’s a difficult place to be. Without the inputs, my outputs will be reduced. My world is full of requests for prayers, an end to palm oil and impassioned pleas for a hundred other causes. I need to put an end to that particular emotional democracy. There is only so much misery to be swallowed before compassion becomes a burden.
I can work towards making a positive difference, but I must limit where I put my feelings now, limit the range. It feels a bit selfish, but sometimes that is a form of survival. I wish these elections could have been held sooner. There has been a lot to learn.