Standing on your head to feel more optimistic about the US

Since the 2016 US election, I started to get more and more interested in politics and geopolitics. I am curious to understand more about what is happening in the US, UK, across Europe, and many other places.

Why did Donald Trump get elected? Yes, Trump didn’t win the popular vote but he still got close to 69 million votes.  Why did Brexit happen? Why is populism on the rise? Did it happen before in modern history? What lessons can we learn from? What do all these mean? And where does it lead us? 
In the beginning, I relied mainly on news channels or newspapers. However, I soon found them to be too reactive and distracting. I can see the tendency to explain the causal impact of everything in the daily news cycle and I am not sure that is the right thing to do (it is the right thing to gain eyeballs for sure). It is hard to gain a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the issues that way.

Like many others, most of the news from the US has made me feel more pessimistic about her future. I started to watch more and more comedy shows like “the daily show with Trevor Noah”, “last week tonight with John Oliver”, “late show with Stephen Colbert” or “real time with Bill Maher”.

After a while, through a series of good books and debates, I started to get a sense of where things are. Below is the list of sources that I have found particularly informative. I hope they will help you too.

Upheavals by Jared Diamond

Thank you for being late by Thomas Friedman

Saving capitalism – a Netflix original documentary

The future of capitalism by Paul Collier

Knock down the house – a Netflix original documentary 

That used to be us by Thomas Friedman

Big debt crises by Ray Dalio

The Bright Side of Nationalism by Yuval Noah Harari

The Daily: The Rise of Nationalism Across the Globe

I have learnt that:

  • People in the low and middle-income classes in the US (and some other countries) have absolutely valid reasons to be anxious and angry. The system has not worked well for them over the past 30 or 40 years.
  • sympathize more with “Trump voters” and “Brexiters”. I don’t like the labels but well they are being used.  
  • Some people may try to combine populism and nationalism together but they are two different concepts.
  • Nationalism is not all bad, it actually has many distinct benefits that I wasn’t aware of before. 
  • Capitalism is created by human and needs to evolve over time to meet human needs. It is by itself not bad or good or evil.
  • Liberal democracy as a concept is incredibly young in our human history (a few hundred years at best) so it needs to continue to be tested, learnt, tweaked and evolved. Don’t treat it like universal human truth for millions or even tens thousands of years  
  • People are looking for quick fixes but we need a more nuanced and pragmatic approach.
  • Many people say what Trump does as a president or the fake news or the social polarisation have never happened before and this is unprecedented. Nope, it is not, it has happened before and we can learn from history

Many of what I say can be controversial so feel free to add / edit / comment.

Cheers,

Chandler

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