Na­tion­al­ism na­tive to all

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Opinion - Jo­ram Ny­athi Spec­trum

A PSY­CHIC In­dian fish eas­ily picked Don­ald Trump for the 45th Amer­i­can pres­i­dent. Charis­matic Nige­rian ‘prophet’ TB Joshua picked Trump’s los­ing Demo­cratic ri­val, Hillary Clin­ton.

He was en­dors­ing the views of a pha­lanx of me­dia houses and an­a­lysts who gave Trump only a slim chance in the gru­elling race for the White House while Clin­ton was seen trot­ting com­fort­ably for a sec­ond stint, now as the ultimate Boss in Wash­ing­ton, DC.

Given the so­bri­quet Chanakya II, the fish was given three chances to make a pre­dic­tion, and Trump scored 100 per­cent. In the event, Trump won 289 against Clin­ton’s 218. We were all up­ended.

Not that some of us cared one way or the other, ex­cept that we had a bone to chew with Clin­ton. The last two can­di­dates in this US pres­i­den­tial race were equally unlov­able. It was not a mat­ter of who was bet­ter be­tween Hillary Clin­ton and Don­ald Trump. It was more of who was less bad, less un­lik­able. Thus the out­come would be a close call, with the fairer sex less bad, the me­dia told us.

Trump was a misog­y­nist, a racist, too crude, un­known. Couldn’t win. Clin­ton had her foot in the door, the learned seers in Wash­ing­ton told us.

True enough, im­ages of the two mak­ing their clos­ing re­marks just be­fore elec­tion day seemed to con­firm this: Trump ap­peared tired and re­signed even as he made his fi­nal ap­peal to vot­ers to “Make Amer­ica Great Again”.

Hillary Clin­ton was ebul­lient, in­sou­ciant and full of zest about “restor­ing our val­ues”.

Thanks to the an­a­lysts, some of us here had re­signed our­selves to a world dom­i­nated by a woman who gave Zim­babwe Zidera and cel­e­brated the killing of Muam­mar Gaddafi and the de­struc­tion of Libya in pur­suit of a false ideal called democ­racy. (We know bet­ter now, so do Libyans who now sorely yearn for their mur­dered leader in the face of unending killings, short­ages of every­thing ex­cept death, and the loot­ing of their oil.)

The mar­gin of Trump’s vic­tory against all ex­pert pre­dic­tions, pro­jec­tions and prog­no­sis, in­clud­ing a last minute dose of TB Joshua’s prophetic or­di­na­tion of Hillary Clin­ton, should be hu­mil­i­at­ing to mem­bers of the jour­nal­ism pro­fes­sion. We are given to the pre­tence that we are al­ways clos­est to, and speak for, the peo­ple. My pri­mary school teacher used to say “you goofed”. The poll­sters, the an­a­lysts, the jour­nal­ists. Run for cover.

Per­haps the aquatic ver­te­brate is closer to the hearts of or­di­nary peo­ple than the ex­perts who spend their days in high-rise, air-con­di­tioned ivory tow­ers, or take bribes to sex up peo­ple’s un­palat­able views. Like Zim­babwe’s Baba Jukwa who gave Ts­van­gi­rai an unas­sail­able elec­toral vic­tory on so­cial me­dia in 2013, only to van­ish into thin air, his mag­i­cal spin sus­tained by another me­dia in­ven­tion, chris­tened Nikuv. It’s a wish be­ing fa­ther to the thought. The crude les­son: elec­tions are not won by ex­perts, nor by those who make the loud­est noise on so­cial me­dia, or main­stream me­dia for that mat­ter. The re­sult is of­ten de­cided by men and women of flesh and blood.

Un­so­phis­ti­cated Trump de­feated an es­tab­lish­ment which had de­ployed a me­dia corps to do a hatchet job on him. The vot­ers re­jected in­cum­bent Pres­i­dent Obama’s tale that Hillary was the “most qual­i­fied per­son” to be the next US pres­i­dent.

Trump talked to peo­ple’s anx­i­eties. The im­mi­grants com­ing to take their jobs, to gob­ble part of their so­cial wel­fare.

He talked to the un­em­ployed as gov­ern­ment al­lowed man­u­fac­tur­ing firms to re­lo­cate over­seas in search of cheap ex­ploitive labour and su­per prof­its. Peo­ple were left in ghost towns, with an es­ti­mated one third of Amer­ica’s 360 mil­lion peo­ple with­out a job, ac­cord­ing to the Trump camp.

Trump’s atavis­tic ap­peal to make Amer­ica great again res­onated with those mil­lions who felt un­ac­com­mo­dated in the pre­ferred nar­ra­tive of the blue bloods who tra­di­tion­ally rule Amer­ica. The me­dia missed it, and thought Trump was mad.

It is the same mis­read­ing of un­ex­pected and un­pop­u­lar sen­ti­ment which led to the shock about the Bri­tish vot­ing to leave the Euro­pean Union ear­lier this year. It was be­lieved in­con­ceiv­able. Only we re­alise late that na­tion­al­ism is not a dis­ease of the prim­i­tive peo­ples of the third world. It is na­tive to ev­ery na­tion, only at dif­fer­ent tem­per­a­tures de­pend­ing on is­sues at stake.

The Amer­i­can peo­ple voted for Trump be­cause they want to re­claim their coun­try and its resources; they want to in­di­genise their econ­omy and its wealth. It is in­struc­tive that a ma­jor­ity of those who voted for Trump in what were thought to be Demo­crat strongholds did not have a col­lege ed­u­ca­tion.

The elec­tion up­shot reveals a cap­i­tal­ist spirit re­coil­ing from the broader im­pli­ca­tions and con­se­quences of glob­al­i­sa­tion and the global vil­lage in a world where eco­nomic in­equal­i­ties make richer na­tions a mag­net for the poor who are also driven from their coun­tries by the end­less, sense­less, desta­bil­is­ing “wars on ter­ror”.

But all this is to di­gress. The sim­ple point is that the me­dia goofed. The same for an­a­lysts. The same for poll­sters. Every­one has been dis­cred­ited in an em­bar­rass­ing way. That in­cludes that moun­te­bank from Nige­ria who has been a dar­ling and a source of tit­il­lat­ing news for idle lo­cal jour­nal­ists, the same way they licked ev­ery silly elec­toral pro­jec­tion by Baba Jukwa to cre­ate psychedelic news­pa­per head­lines for their gullible read­ers.

They world was stunned by Trump’s elec­toral vic­tory be­cause it trusts the make-be­lieve world of the me­dia, it be­lieves the me­dia’s “peo­ple”, it swal­lows un­ques­tion­ingly claims by the me­dia that they re­port peo­ple’s views when they ped­dle their own wishes and hawk their own opin­ions as news.

In Zim­babwe we are fa­mil­iar with how many times Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe has died. He now makes jokes about it him­self. Their wish for his death is re­ported as a na­tional con­cern for his health.

We are fa­mil­iar with how much Zim­bab­weans love the opium of democ­racy more than they do own­er­ship of their nat­u­ral resources. The latest hottest thing in town is how or­di­nary Zim­bab­weans love their Amer­i­can dol­lars more than hav­ing their own cur­rency. In other words we trust oth­ers with the well­be­ing of our coun­try more than we can trust our­selves. That’s be­fore one sep­a­rates the “peo­ple” from the wishes of the me­dia.

The same me­dia which told us peo­ple didn’t want bond coins, that peo­ple don’t want plas­tic money and have been in­cit­ing and in­sti­gat­ing demon­stra­tions and law­suits against the bond notes in the name of the peo­ple. The same me­dia which tell us daily that civil ser­vants who want to with­draw their $400 monthly pay from banks are do­ing so to es­cape the bond note. How much does one save a month from $400?

Re­act­ing the cat­a­strophic fail­ure by the me­dia to pre­pare the world for a Trump mael­strom, a jour­nal­ist col­league ar­gued the me­dia tends to “ex­ag­ger­ate its con­tri­bu­tion to the na­tional mood, de­lud­ing it­self into think­ing it can de­cide mat­ters.”

This, he says, is “a lie con­cocted by ig­no­ra­muses who hap­pen to have a pen and a pa­per. Take that lie away and the me­dia has no busi­ness … Trump has shown that peo­ple don’t need me­dia to form an opin­ion. They have their own views and ideas.”

Per­haps India’s psy­chic fish, Chanakya, would not be a bad sta­ple diet for mem­bers of the Fourth Es­tate. We would then get closer to the hearts of or­di­nary peo­ple, down from the ivory tower. We would be mod­est in our pre­tences to know any­thing at all be­yond the ba­sic sto­ry­line.

PS: Two things stand out in the out­come of the US elec­tion. You con­test, win or lose, and let the na­tion move on. Sec­ond, it is still a man’s world in a coun­try which con­sid­ers it­self the bea­con of democ­racy and a land of equal op­por­tu­ni­ties. Lesser peo­ples have fared much bet­ter, led by India. to

Don­ald Trump

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