Brexit. Trump. Why are things the way they are? How did it come to this? A reply on Reddit caught my eye, and I think it deserves to be reproduced in full. u/Y3808 on “What does the rise of the alt-right signal about the current and future state of society?”
The same thing that the rise of fascism signaled in the 1930s.
Oppressive economic and social conditions lead to the lower classes lashing out at what they perceive to be injustice. Sometimes they are justified, sometimes they aim their wrath at undeserving targets.
In the case of Europe between the end of the 19th century and WW2, the hatred of the nobility and the bourgeois industrialists that replaced them was aimed at Jews as well, which led to the rise of the Nazis. Hannah Arendt covered this well enough there’s no reason to retype it, but the narrative fits modern times as well.
In the case of the US, France, and the UK in recent elections, there are very similar situations, in my opinion. The lower/lower-middle classes in the US were sold a fantasy at the end of WW2, that they were heroes who were owed prosperity by virtue of being white and American. This stemmed from labor demands after the war coupled with government subsidies given to veterans, who the government expected to participate in another war against socialism that never really materialized except for the poor effort that was Vietnam.
Those people were given government funded education, government financed housing, and jobs in government financed factories. Naturally their children expected to follow in the prosperous footsteps of their parents. But the tech age has eliminated this way of life in most places. The key in this narrative is that the 1950s/1960s fantasy was a complete and utter lie, wrapped up in capitalist propaganda. The uneducated blue collar middle class American in the mid 20th century, living in a government financed house, working at a government financed factory, and sending his children to government financed schools, was told that all of that was purely capitalistic and that he was the antithesis of the evil communist, despite all of those things being blatantly socialist in nature.
Enter the computer age. The computer is an efficiency tool. Its path of least resistance is to find ‘busy workers’ and eliminate the need for them. The factory purchasing manager who sat around stamping paper all day for a generous salary has been replaced by software. If that wasn’t bad enough for the former purchasing manager, the factory itself has picked up and moved to China or Mexico for cheaper physical labor as well, so his children don’t have a factory to work at. They work at Starbucks or retail stores for just enough money to keep a car, while living at home with their parents.
So the divide between uneducated and educated is the story here. Those who took their GI bill money and went to college, and then in turn sent their children to college, are doing fine. Those from the 50s/60s who skipped college for the option of factory work are seeing their way of life disappear. Those who bought into the anti-communist propaganda got a particularly rude awakening, as they have found out in the past 30 years that capitalistic prosperity for the lower classes was a lie. But in the case of the US, UK, and France, Enlightenment individualism is so ingrained into the culture that rejection of capitalism isn’t a pill that any of the blue collar downtrodden can swallow. So they lash out at the immigrant as a convenient boogeyman, just as the poor who suffered the effects of WW1 lashed out at the Jews as a convenient boogeyman.
Whether or not that immigrant hate is misguided, the ignorant middle-left in the US, UK, and France parading all non-white people as heroes of culture deserving of privilege by virtue of not being white is incredibly foolish and only tends to incite racist tendencies among the blue collar native populations of those countries.
The end result is the perfect storm of Trump, Brexit, and Le Pen.