Difficult times; simple solutions | @MikeBerkoff

After a long break, Labour Teachers will be relaunched soon under new editorship. Before that happens we will be sharing some posts sent to us during the hiatus.

IMG_20150721_173141Mike Berkoff began his career in 1974, teaching in a comprehensive for three years. He was a lecturer/course organiser in Further Education for twenty three years and a senior manager in Adult Education for nine years. His main teaching was in mathematics and computer science. He is now happily retired.

I thought like most people that the Trump thing would be a footnote in history and somehow sense would prevail. Of course, now I am incredibly less sanguine. I have put some thought into the features that seem to mark out the strange era we are living through. Certain ideas are becoming common currency and not just in America. Let me list a few of the common occurrences that seem to be increasingly with us.

Rallies are used as a substitute for considered discussion

The rally has never had much affection for me. Everyone re-enforcing each other’s preconceptions and tricky use of mass psychology.

Personality cults

Well here is an old idea making an unwelcome comeback. Suddenly a particular individual can do no wrong. Icons appear and devoted followers hang on every word. Rather pathetic if you think about it but very appealing for some.

Attacks on those who bring uncomfortable or challenging messages.

Here the ridiculous phrase ‘Main Stream Media’ or MSM has appeared (in the US the phraseology is different but the meaning is the same) as a kind of catch all dismissal of any outlet that dares to produce contradictory narratives to the accepted ideological correct versions.

Making a movement totally compliant with a narrow set of ideas and paradigms

If you are not completely on board with the leader or his acolytes then you must be a traitor of some kind. Open debate and challenges are not acceptable in this kind of set up. The inevitable splits and factionalism will occur. Give it time it will happen. Conspiracy theories and attacks on existing or former allies will always follow.

The pretence that true believers are in some way outsiders to society

Pretty common this one. If loyal adherents feel they are special in some way it encourages their feeling of self worth. The fact that many are simply easily lead would horrify them.

The use of a pseudo special interest to validate their beliefs

We have all seen the ‘Women for Trump’ banners but I have also spotted ‘Women for Corbyn’ equivalents. This is so wrong on so many levels that it almost beggars belief that those holding them can be completely of this world. Similar use of ‘Veterans for Trump’ or ‘<name a minority ethnic group> for whom ever’ are also in evidence. I would be pretty sure similar nonsense can be found in such movements across the globe. Examples would be helpful.

Casual racism/anti-Semitism

For there to be acceptance of any group as valid in promoting progress and the best of enlightenment values the minimum would be to see if it is inclusive. Those that single out minorities for attack or allow space for others to do so fail that basic test.

Ignoring failures as unimportant and seeing all as correct.

I had expected to include the Trump movement as having failed in their main initial aim of winning the election. As that did not happen (damn it) leads us all to examine just what has gone wrong. Or it should! Already one or two have claimed that in some way the US election result opens opportunities for them. This has occurred recently even in our own party. What utter piffle. The US election result is a massive defeat and to say any different is a step back from reality. We are in horribly dangerous times and this should be clear to us all.


The defining aspect of all the above. The use of crude simple solutions to vastly complicated issues is profoundly dishonest. From Hungary to Turkey to The US to our own party (and who knows where else soon) reaction is on the march. We have a history of democratic pluralism that needs defending. Let us get to it.



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