Umair Ali comments on the rising tide of populism in
The rise of Populism galore is an antithesis of pluralistic notions of public representation and is quite a rattling phenomenon in its specifications. Populism is widely recognised as symptomatic of collective psychological hopelessness compelling people to look for radical options. In this context, and completely contrary to public perception, it is not a liberating phenomenon and is full of aspects that are essentially based upon exceptional controlling mechanism. Populist representation apparently gives the impression of a shimmering process projecting an image of a self-sustaining solution for any problem and extremely credible in content. In actual fact it is just the opposite that it contains and when it ultimately unravels it brings high levels of disappointment and misery to its believers and adherents.
In the current unstable geo-political scenario, populism has emerged as a global phenomenon indicating the fast-dwindling hopes people have conventionally reposed in a pluralistic socio-political environment. Since the last twenty years populism has secured hold even in advanced western democracies that took pride in their evolving pluralistic systems. This trend is ruling the roost in long-surviving inclusive India where the current ruling dispensation and its leadership is heavily dependent upon increasingly populist pattern that has acutely polarised the polity with violence often taking over the public discourse. The current situation indicates that this typical brand of populism in India is going to stay creating further difficulties for the besieged minorities of the country.
The rage of populism has badly infected many countries that have also become its target and their strong pluralistic systems have failed to stay immune to this self-serving phenomenon. It is quite clear that the staple of populism sweetly enveloped in rhetorical promises of empowering the poor, redistributing wealth and eradicating poverty that unmistakably resound exceedingly well with people despite growing skepticism that such political pledges are essentially hollow without any substance and are meant to be broken. The proponents of populism, particularly the political leaders conveniently play upon the base public sentiments of hate and distrust to assume political power and prolong it by hook or crook on the strength of street support. It is widely acknowledged that public opinion is gullible and erratically fluctuates like a weather cock and it is required to be prudently guided.
In advanced countries such as America a large segment of people is anxiously awaiting the return of Donald Trump and his formidable political presence has so far inhibited the Republican Party from throwing up a plausible challenger to him. Other countries are also catching this bug and countries like Brazil, Germany and Scandinavian countries have fallen for it. Italy has already fallen to this sentiment where an ultra-right politician has been elected as its first female head of government. The crucial and curious aspect of this phenomenon is that it is justified on intellectual pretexts such reflecting claims of representing popular will and populist leaders tend to drive public sentiments against enemies of the common interest.
Populism often takes ultra-rightist stances and its proponents narrow down their rhetoric on the confines of nationalism creating a strong feeling of xenophobia that quickly seeps in national polity. Their focus is diametrically opposite to the left-wing rabble rousers that emphasise the wrong doings committed by financial elite and offer alternative simplistic solutions to complex economic problems. The nature of populism is very evident and it smacks of political opportunism and their compulsion is so strong that many elected dispensation deliberately prefer to devise and implement policies aimed at winning public approval instead of focusing on adequate and required policies. Pakistan has been particularly subjected to such policies successively with the head of elected political dispensations claiming accolades for building roads and carrying out all sorts of municipal activities neglecting the wide perspective of governance they are elected for.
It is widely acknowledged that populism is a much deeper issue to face and tackle as it plays upon the weaker sensitivities of people though in its real context it fractures the social cohesion of a system and ultimately ends up in galvanising people’s misgivings and frustrations towards turmoil and often gives way to anarchy. It is duly acknowledged that populist leaders historically take their flock in wrong directions and by utilising the tried and tested methods of fervent and misplaced nationalism along with anti-elitist stance they take before the people they wreak havoc. Their favourite antic is to promise protectionist trade policies and quick and ready-made justice in order to win common consent and they do it eventually.
The tempestuous public campaigns of populist political figures end up in blatant and unbridled authoritarianism that squeeze liberties and strictly curb any opposition, often harshly punishing dissent and creating a rigidly regimented system where fresh air is denied entry. This king of the regressive rule is borne out by powerful populist dictators of the 20th century who played upon popular antics of nationalism, anti-elitism and after gaining power their unbridled authoritarianism and aggressive policy pushed the world to the brink of extinction. TW