Keep populist tide in check
The reactions from certain quarters to former United States president Barack Obama’s tribute to Nelson Mandela confirms his warning that the journey Mandela began has not been completed.
Mandela and Obama caused seismic shifts in the sociopolitical sphere when they became the first black presidents of their countries.
Subtle opposition came out in the open in the US and led to a “whitelash” that contributed to the election of a president with racist leanings and intolerance towards those who look and believe differently.
Obama referred to the pushback against the new sociopolitical dispensation set in motion by Madiba, of which his own presidency was an example. Mandela was well aware of this danger and warned against taking freedom and equal opportunities for granted.
The struggle for real democracy, equality and tolerance is a process and it has its cycles. History has proven that long-held ideologies and prejudices often reappear in conducive circumstances. The flood of refugees into Europe, caused by wars, climate change and scarce resources, seems to have created such a conducive environment.
Vigilance is needed to timeously identify and counter a resurgence of ideologies that have caused deep divisions and immense pain.
Increasing global social awareness, largely brought about by social media, will be a crucial factor in countering the effect of populism. But populists themselves are now using social media and fake news in their efforts to reverse the new tolerant world order.
The current wave of populism across the globe can be stopped if good forces take a stand, but Obama also warned that victory is not a given. —