Around much of the world, including Western Europe and North America, far-right political movements are on the rise. Many labels, such as white supremacy or neo-fascism, can be applied, but labeling just describes the phenomenon, it doesn’t necessarily explain anything, and it certainly doesn’t provide a solution to what are likely harmful social currents.
Some of these ominous changes are the unanticipated byproducts of people convinced they are doing the world a favor. Recently, at the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland, the planet’s rich cats flew in on their private jets in order to discuss improving societal problems.
Their solution to poverty, disease, discontent, etc., is to achieve improvements without changing the economic arrangements that made them spectacularly wealthy (win-win solutions they are naively called). Perhaps by inventing a new app (e.g., for personal financial management), they surmise, the plight of billions of people can be enhanced.
Unfortunately, life isn’t so simple. Further implementation of the very economic and international policies that are suppressing people across Europe and America is not the solution to their problems.
Numerous Davos attendees sincerely mean to do good, but what they don’t see is that they are complicit in creating the problems they profess to address. Real change will require institutional and systemic alterations that will decrease their wealth and power.
This small community of unelected leaders includes many of the Wall Streeters, CEOs, and other plutocrats who have been chipping away at our democracy, harming the economy, and hording the wealth for decades in America. However, Davos attendees also include former presidents, foundation heads, technocrats, mega-philanthropists, and European Union leaders. These people can be referred to as “globalists.” Bill Clinton is a globalist.
Their vision is for a world without borders, benign technocratic leadership, gadget-driven progress, and market cures for all social ills (see Winner Take All by Anand Giridharadas). It never dawned on global elites to ask the regular people if all this was acceptable to them.
For several reasons, ordinary people around the world are disdainful of globalists and their policies: (1) The majority of people are seeing their incomes stagnate or decrease; (2) Most citizens have no say in what’s occurring; and (3) Many local people hate the high amount of immigration ensuing.
Brexit in Great Britain is an illustration. People outside of London became displeased with seeing the ethnic texture of their own communities changed by immigrants. The same reaction can be seen in France, Germany and America.
As an anthropologist, I suggest people are naturally somewhat ethnocentric, territorial, and often conservative about social change. Moreover, there are already too many people in countless desired locations, such as Seattle.
Some immigration is acceptable, however. Immigrants to America can revitalize downtrodden areas, and it’s important to be humane to true refugees.
The argument here is not to lament what has already happened, but to instead make an adjustment moving forward. Whether in America, the UK, Mexico, Nigeria, or Japan, most citizens do not, or would not, like to experience the influx of so many foreign people that they feel their very identity and voice are threatened.
Specifically concerning America, the societal, ecological, and political costs of our current immigration rate are becoming exorbitant for the quality of life we desire. We now have, for example, armies of homeless American residents in major cities because there are too many people bidding up rents.
American politics desperately needs to return to the idea of compromise. Curtailing immigration to a more reasonable figure of about 400,000 annually, instead of our average of about 1.5 million since 2000, would be a good first step.
(Author Mark Mansperger is an associate professor of anthropology and world civilizations at WSU-Tri-Cities. His research includes cultural ecology, societal development and political economy.)