Politicians are hiding behind complacent language instead of facing the challenges that their constituents are fired up about.
BOGOTÁ — Only a politician could look at the state of the world — from Donald Trump to Brexit, from the Nice carnage to the coup attempt in Turkey — and say that everything is fine.
A day after Britons voted to leave the European Union, U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the Global Entrepreneurship Summit at Stanford University, and made a speech later described by The Guardian columnist Thomas Frank as the "purest globaloney" with a "whiff of vintage dotcom ebullience."
In a recent article, Frank observed that members of the global elite were unable to see the seething discontent beneath them, and that their refusal to change their "venal and complacent" conduct could have dire results.
This complacency is evident in the type of language and the tone we are used to hearing from politicians like Obama, with his high-minded conversational style. It's mayhem out there, Frank suggests, but the key words in Obama's recent speech were "innovation" and "interconnection".
Another example of political complacency lies in the term "for now" (a día de hoy), as often uttered by Pedro Sánchez, the secretary-general of the Socialist Party in Spain, which hasn't had an effective government for months now thanks to a splintered parliament. Spanish commentator Álex Grijelmo says that politicians like the catchphrase because it can distract an audience. It helps the politician avoid saying what they specifically intend to do next.
When Sánchez says that, "for now, we're going to vote no" (to another austerity government led by Mariano Rajoy, for example), he is implying that tomorrow could be different. He avoids committing himself to a public position on a topic.
Nobody in the ruling class has the guts to tell us what will happen tomorrow because that would involve committing to reality or to institutional changes needed to give people hope for the future. The discourse of public figures reveals their complacency and lack of commitment in a society accustomed to spectacle.
By this I don't mean a society, as described by novelist and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, that is enthralled by entertainment. I'm talking instead about "spectacle" as understood by the Situationists of the 1960s, who viewed our advanced capitalist society as plagued by social alienation, with people alternately hooked on consumer commodities or beholden to innovation, interconnection and entrepreneurs.
That world of ideas is crumbling. How can we tell? Well, for one thing, we're facing the real possibility right now of a fascist becoming president of the United States of America.