“We as President and Executive Director of Globethics.net send you this email as a personal point of view and comment on today’s election of Donald Trump. We invite you to send us your comments, especially on the topic of an ethical response to populism.
Today, 11/9 will probably change the world even more than the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York in 2001. The election of Donald Trump as President of one of the leading world economies is a victory for a candidate who during his campaign has openly challenged many of the values that many in the Globethics.net community stand for such as respect, openness, global solidarity, caring for others and for the environment and personal integrity. Trump has on several occasions represented and propagated anti-values such as hate-speech, disrespect (for minorities, women and for those who hold a different opinion), lying (whenever it served his own purposes), cheating and economic exploitation (not only in tax affairs), and nationalism accompanied by sentiments of white superiority.
The election of Donald Trump can be seen as yet another shocking instance of a trend in many countries around the world of a growth in populist movements. The message to hear and to take seriously from the populists is that an inclusive society (as set as a goal in the UN Sustainable Development Goals SDGs) cannot only be inclusive for ethnic minorities, migrants, children, women and the marginalised, but has also to be sensitive and inclusive for those lower and middle classes who fear losing their economic status and losing their identity in the midst of globalisation. Their cry can be heard as a cry to restore their dignity. “Restore dignity”, the motto of the University of Nigeria in Enugu/Nigeria and partner of Globethics.net, has to be on the agenda. But the means of populists is the wrong way to restore dignity. Upholding global values with respect for contextual and local values is the more future-oriented answer. In our own publications on globalisation we have been warning for the last two decades that economic globalisation without globalisation of values and respect for cultural diversity is doomed to fail. This Trump populist movement could well indicate the failure of one-sided globalisation – and provides an opportunity to call once again for a balanced globalisation.
Populism is characterised as an ideology in which an individual or party claims to be the only, true representative of ‘the people’. “We are the people” – as opposed to the ruling elites – is the slogan that has brought other leaders to power now in the USA, in Eastern Europe, the Philippines, Russia, India, China and in some African and Latin American countries. ‘The people’ are usually a group of peers who align with a particular party and its leader. They are often linked with tribal, ethnic, nationalist and religious identifiers with a strong connotation of superiority over others. The ideology of the self-selected people who are called to rule and save the world often has a religious dimension related to promises of salvation in this world or the next. Ethical leadership is in short supply globally. The consequences of the populist politics in the USA and elsewhere may spread further with immeasurable consequences.
The biggest danger of populism is its link with nationalism, authoritarianism, fascism and absolutism. Since these leaders represent ‘the people’, they feel themselves to be above the law, the media and other powers. In general they disrespect the important balance of power between the five powers of civic government – the legislative, executive, judicial, media and civil society powers – and claim to rule over all of them by weakening the parliaments, controlling the judiciary, the media and civil society (including academia). Trump gave these signals very clearly even though he may not succeed in attaining all his ‘dreams’ in a country such as the USA, which is still essentially a democracy. It could be said that Trump represents the same movement from populism towards absolutism as the new president in the Philippines, the governments in Poland, South Africa, Russia, China, Turkey and others. The state of law and especially international law and the UN system and values are under huge pressure. This populism also tries to limit and control civil society with new laws, restrictions on academic freedom to research and teach by administrative measures and direct political interventions (e.g. Turkey).
Populists want to replace freedom with control, justice and equality with priority being given to ‘the true people’, peace with polarisation, caring for the earth with short-term benefits for their own nations, honesty with shameless manipulation, integrity with ‘power at all costs’, respect with aggression. That is why 11/9, 9 November 2016, will remain in our memory as a day that challenges us to reassert the importance of global values.
Trump’s acceptance speech was gracious towards his opponent Hillary Clinton and in large part encouraging. “I pledge to every citizen… that I will be President for all Americans”, he said “For those who have chosen not to support me in the past… I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help… It’s time for us to come together as one united people… we will get along with all other nations willing to get along with us… I want to tell the world community that while we will always put America’s interests first, we will deal fairly with everyone”, he stated.
We appeal to all citizens in the USA to hold their new President to account, to ensure that he keeps his promises. We are confident that many of you, the 174’000 registered participants in Globethics.net, will continue to struggle for our common values such as peace, freedom, justice, equity and virtues such as fairness, respect, honesty and integrity. Values matter more than ever. In as much as we respect the democratic process, people must be supported to regain the inspiration that the Globethics.net vision and mission offers; it places people at the centre and pushes for values-driven leadership and inclusion, which includes all those who voted, whether for Trump or for Clinton. We need to be prepared for harder times. We will need to take more action for creative, non-violent resistance to populism and absolutism. Let us turn this day into a day for integrity and global values! Our faiths, our worldviews, our compassion and our communities will support us. Thank you for your continued resistance to anti-values and for your engagement for global values wherever you are!
Christoph Stückelberger, Globethics.net President
Obiora Ike, Globethics.net Executive Director
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