My brother, an Australian citizen, was once a strong trade unionist and Labour supporter.
When he retired he maintained his interest in politics and trade unions. In earlier days on the building sites he worked on, he rubbed shoulders with some of the young men who would later lead his union and other unions and eventually become public figures. One of them, my brother was once proud to say, had been his apprentice. But over many years that pride was eroded when it emerged, finally without doubt, that many of these union leaders he once had high expectations of, were crooks. Like all too many African leaders, they saw their elevation as licence to steal from those who elected them.
To make matters worse, from my brother’s point of view, the values that characterised bent union leaders were shared by far too many politicians. Labour, it turned out, were no better than “the other crowd.” And if salt was needed to sprinkle on this unholy dish it was provided daily by a biased media run by ‘megalomaniacs.’
The loss of faith took some years but he finally gave up. From self preservation, I suppose, he perfected an unemotional dismissal of politicians, union leaders, employer representatives, in fact all the usual suspects who are called on to give us reassuring messages about the state of our world. This attitude developed slowly, nurtured over many years by disappointment and deceit. While this view of life may not bear the scrutiny of a treatise on the subject, it does have echoes.
In younger people with more energy a similar resignation from hope in the political sphere is wrapped in anger and a desire to punish. Donald Trump may be a phony but the anger and frustration and sense of betrayal felt by many of his supporters is real. Anger against Wall Street and the media, frustration with the ‘establishment’ and elected representatives who seem to serve everybody but their constituencies.
Question is, will these followers of this new political messiah end up with the same disenchantment my brother now feels when and if Trump is elected President; when he has to betray some of the wilder pledges he made to them on the campaign trail.