Trump and the limits of globalisation

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WHILE the ramifications of the political earthquake triggered by the electoral victory of Donald Trump are still to unfold in full, it is important that we start to make sense of it all right away.
And we should do so from the perspective of a continent that has been on the receiving end of Anglo-American power for long.
Often many of us in Africa are more inclined to believe in everything which the West tells us and to implement whatever the US and Europe may ask of us.
Call it innocence, naivety or gullibility, the point is, far too many of us have come to regard whatever political, economic or social sermons are preached to us by the West as the God-ordained truth!
Let us take for instance, the whole issue about globalisation.
How many times have we heard our politicians, economists or academics glibly assert, without any sense of scepticism or even a tinge of irony, how all of us are now part of the global village?
Instead of us asking questions such as:
l Who is the headman of this global village?
l Who elected or appointed him?
l To whom is the village headman accountable?
We seem to be more keen to belong to the global village and far less keen to ask all those basic questions which can assist us to understand ourselves and the world around us better.
If indeed the world is now a village as the West has been claiming all along, do we as Africans belong to it to a point of shaping it and imbuing it with our values?
If indeed our values do not feature at all in this village, does it remain a village for us or is it in fact a jungle where the strongest prevail all the time?
For many decades the West, led by the US, carried out a relentless campaign to convince all of us that globalisation was the way to go.
The same West expected most countries to worry less about nation states and their boundaries, to champion free trade and to rely, always, on market forces to determine our fate in all socio-economic matters.
The bold assumption behind this globalisation process is that our interests as human beings are destined to converge and that all of us would derive benefits from such a convergence.
Many talked about the information highway and how, because of information technology, this would consolidate all our interests in the global village.
It was a highly persuasive narrative which was inclined to dwell more on, and to market more of, the success stories of the Western world.
In fact, the narrative became a powerful myth that was not meant to focus on the negative impact of globalisation itself, especially in most of those countries which masqueraded before us as developed countries.
What the West did not want us to focus on is the fact that globalisation was another name for ‘imperialisation’ of the world, this business of promoting the rapacious circulation of Western capital forever in a quest for cheap natural resources and cheap labour so as to generate astronomical profits.
It is obvious that Trump has turned the globalisation myth upside down by focusing his election campaign relentlessly on the negative impact of globalisation in the US itself.
And it turns out globalisation benefitted elites, marginalised vast numbers, generated massive resentment and a sense of exclusion not only in the so-called developing countries, but in the US itself and Europe, among others.
It is interesting to note that Trump has won the US elections partly by interrogating with ferocity and irreverence the globalisation narrative itself.
He criss-crossed the US for over one and a half years thundering against globalisation which, while enriching multi-national corporations, left most working-class whites in America jobless and poor.
What has left many worried to their wits’ end is that Trump has galvanised white nationalism to a point where all sorts of white supremacists, including those from the Ku Klax Klan, are all coming out of the woodwork and claiming their right to insult and offend other minority groups in the US.
It seems as if some of the worst aspects of white identity politics, together with its accompanying arrogance and racist prejudices, are now coming to the surface since Trump’s victory.
It is like Trump is saying ‘let us make America white again’!
And the reason is simple.
During the election, Trump stereotyped Mexicans as rapists and criminals and promised to build a wall between Mexico and the US to keep them out of the US.
He also promised to ban Moslem immigrants to the US, suggesting in the process that all Moslems are prone to terrorism.
To cap it all, he swore he would expel 11 million illegal immigrants once he got elected as president.
And he was blunt and mercilessly brutal with his toxic rhetoric in a way that is unmatched in American electoral history.
Here is how Mkosana Bingweni defines the symbolic significance of Trump’s electoral victory:
“Trump represents colonial Americanism without embellishments… a falling of the mask and the appearance of poison in its true and open bitterness.
In Trump, imperial America is out with horns, teeth and bare knuckles.
In Trump arrives the devil that the world knows.
A true capitalist hooligan Trump is.”
What we are witnessing here is a viscerally xenophobic sensibility underpinned by a racist Anglo-Saxon imagination that is recoiling from the complexities and demands of the larger world to which globalisation has acted as an ideological framework of some sort.
The fact that American voters supported Trump and voted accordingly, speaks volumes about the limits of globalisation.
Why?
Because the US as a former champion of globalisation is slowly, but inexorably in decline, the kind of decline that is too obvious for most of us not to notice.
Trump’s election campaign slogan ‘To make America Great Again’ says it all!
It is about the past that is no more as much as it is about a more uncertain future.
Cutting through Trump’s bombastic rhetoric, one senses a more insecure, more anxious America desperate to change the rules of the so-called free trade, free markets and replace them with fortress America buttressed by trade tariffs and literally, by a massive physical wall to keep out the ‘barbarian’ outsiders.
Taken together with the Brexit story of the British, it becomes clear that the nation states, at least the Anglo-Saxon ones, are already making a comeback of some sort at the expense of the globalisation narrative which is now riddled with numerous fault-lines.
The stinging irony here is that Africa is likely to go on singing about the global village for some time to come when in fact its previous proponents are already busy looking for an alternative paradigm and an alternative vocabulary with which to describe and define an Anglo-Saxon-led imperial world that is in terminal decline.
In brief, the contradictions thrown up by the Trump victory are contradictions which characterise 21st Century capitalism that is in serious crisis.
Our lesson here as Africans is: We should not swallow everything doled out to us by the West hook, line and sinker.
Instead, we should go on defining our own destiny, our own way rather than latching on to that which is defined for us by others.
The world has always been a global jungle where the fittest survive best and Africans should not be lulled into complacency by concepts and freshly minted phrases thrown around us like bits of bait.
We should always hold on to what we believe in and work for, co-operate with other nations of the world where and when it suits us, but never allow those others to overwhelm us by their definitions of us and our supposed role in the world.

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