Par­a­digm shift

All the in­di­ca­tions are there. On both sides of the At­lantic there is, oc­cur­ring, a par­a­digm shift in ev­ery­day pol­i­tics that is bound to serve as a for­mi­da­ble chal­lenge to the sta­tus quo so beloved of the Es­tab­lish­ment in the civilised world.

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Mar­lene Mizzi is a Mem­ber of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment Mar­lene Mizzi

Long-es­tab­lished political par­ties which choose to re­main stuck to old and weary ideas have not only been sur­passed at the polls, but some are even fac­ing ex­tinc­tion. The grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of pop­ulist par­ties and politi­cians is of ma­jor con­cern at a time when di­vi­sion and po­lar­i­sa­tion are con­tam­i­nat­ing the West­ern na­tions of both Europe and the United States. It is now be­ing felt, seen and fully re­alised as this par­a­digm shift shoves ex­trem­ist views, prej­u­diced prin­ci­ples and wor­ry­ing meth­ods into the fast-re­volv­ing sphere of political power.

It is not just the cur­rent sce­nario in the United States fol­low­ing the shock elec­tion vic­tory by Don­ald Trump that has shaken both the cen­tre-right and cen­treleft el­e­ments into re­al­i­sa­tion. All that was pre­ceded by the Brexit ref­er­en­dum, result in the United King­dom and the ad­vent of new, hith­erto un­known political forces that have come strongly into the scene to threaten the tra­di­tional and of­ten dis­ori­en­tated power sources as­so­ci­ated with the prac­tice of mod­er­ate pol­i­tics on the ba­sis of com­fort­able al­ter­na­tion.

We have seen this marked shift to­wards ul­tra-right-wing and Eu­roscep­tic political par­ties oc­cur­ring at Euro­pean, national, re­gional and lo­cal elec­tions, an on­slaught that has taken the oxy­gen out of the tra­di­tional political class.

In Europe, Ma­rine Le Pen’s National Front far-right party – which has been known in the past to deny the Holo­caust and the impact the Nazi in­va­sion dur­ing WWII had on the coun­try – seems set to con­sol­i­date its grip on power at the high­est level. Its dash into the ever higher ech­e­lons of power is based strictly on pop­ulist and na­tion­al­is­tic rea­son­ing: “Our peo­ple de­mand one type of pol­i­tics: They want pol­i­tics by the French, for the French, with the French. They don’t want to be led any­more from out­side, to sub­mit to laws.”

Af­ter Brexit, Europe con­tin­ues to watch hor­ri­fied as other na­tions and EU mem­ber states go through the same process. From France to Ger­many where the so­called “un­electable mav­er­icks” of the Al­ter­na­tive fur Deutsch­land (AFD) have been rapidly mak­ing grad­ual in­roads into power un­der the slo­gan of ‘Have Courage to be Ger­many’ and de­mands for a re­turn to the Deutschmark and the repa­tri­a­tion of pow­ers from Brus­sels. Its for­mer leader, Bernd Lucke, re­placed last year by Frauke Petry, once in­fa­mously re­ferred to poor im­mi­grants as “so­cial dregs”.

Sim­i­lar ul­tra-right par­ties in Swe­den, Hun­gary, Poland, Italy, Aus­tria and else­where are also part of this par­a­digm shift. Many of them have open anti-im­mi­grants and anti-EU poli­cies. Their lead­ers have been reg­u­larly por­trayed as “ec­centrics” who have come up with “crazy” pro­pos­als only to help­lessly watch them mak­ing swift elec­toral gains at the ex­pense of the ma­jor power houses of Europe. All this was be­fore the Trump story.

Europe’s switch to “pa­tri­otic” and jin­go­is­tic ideas, as op­posed to unity in di­ver­sity, is the long­drawn result of wasted op­por­tu­ni­ties and need­less pro­cras­ti­na­tion. It is, no doubt, also the back­lash from years of aus­ter­ity that left an in­deli­ble mark on the mid­dle and work­ing classes, both cer­tainly not to blame for the bank­ing and fi­nan­cial crises that hit the United States and Europe.

The tran­si­tion back from sheer aus­ter­ity to a pro­gres­sive ap­proach has been ham­pered by the del­uge of im­mi­grants and refugees, an is­sue that con­tin­ues to se­ri­ously threaten the very sur­vival of the Euro­pean Union.

A Europe that can­not come to terms with it­self, is in ur­gent need of a new in­jec­tion of ideas and pro­pos­als based on peo­ple’s wishes, on the de­mands of cit­i­zens who have had enough of ide­o­log­i­cal dis­cord and the per­pet­ual dig­ging of trenches at a time when the things most needed are ac­tion and in­no­va­tion.

On the eve of its as­sump­tion of the pres­i­dency of the EU Coun­cil, Malta can be cited as the ideal torch-bearer. Since the change of gov­ern­ment in March of 2013, the is­land has un­der­gone a re­mark­able re­ju­ve­na­tion, eas­ing it­self from the lack­adaisi­cal to the in­no­va­tive by re­vamp­ing its econ­omy and re­mov­ing the last ves­tiges of aus­ter­ity that had in­hib­ited it for far too long.

The result is an EU mem­ber state, iron­i­cally the small­est, that has achieved sus­tained economic growth cul­mi­nat­ing in record low un­em­ploy­ment fig­ures, record in­creases in for­eign in­vest­ment, a shrink­ing deficit, and a con­stant out­lay of peo­ple­friendly bud­get mea­sures and ben­e­fits.

The best weapon against ex­trem­ism of both the right and the left is economic growth and the real well-be­ing of the cit­i­zen. As long as peo­ple any­where find them­selves in a sit­u­a­tion where they have to grind out a liv­ing, there will al­ways be the false prophets promis­ing them heaven on earth.

Cer­tain Euro­peans are wit­ness­ing it at first hand, though hope­fully they won’t come to re­gret it. The Mal­tese Pres­i­dency is fac­ing a her­culean chal­lenge of try­ing to or­gan­ise a most di­verse political fra­cas un­der one voice.

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