The year of living stupidly

Sadly, 2016 will be remembered above all for its cynical politicians and ignorant or irresponsible voters

Former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe with opponents of the FARC peace deal.
Former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe with opponents of the FARC peace deal.FREDY BUILES / REUTERS

More information

All we need now to end a perfect year is for Donald Trump to be elected president. So far, the electoral results of 2016 seem to have reflected little more than the ability of cynical politicians to manipulate an ill-informed, unmindful and irresponsible electorate. What else could explain the selection of Trump as the Republican Party’s presidential candidate in the United States, a vote in favor of Brexit in the United Kingdom, and most seriously, the rejection of a peace deal with the leftist guerillas of the FARC in Colombia, thus stretching out the 50-year-long civil war there yet further?

All three cases have been characterized by wholesale lying: former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe, who led the ‘no’ campaign, lied; Boris Johnson, the man who jointly led the Brexit campaign, lied; and Trump has lied throughout his campaign.

All three cases have been characterized by wholesale lying by politicians

As for the electorate, they have behaved with bovine docility, although even cows would surely have displayed more common sense when given the opportunity to avoid the self-destruction that voters in Colombia, the United Kingdom and the United States have embraced.

Colombia’s collective suicide is the magnum opus in the long career of former president Uribe, who managed to win the hearts (of darkness) and minds (if that’s the word) of the majority of the few of his fellow countrymen that bothered to turn out in the most important vote in their country’s blighted history.

His job was to remind voters of something they already knew, that the leftist FARC guerrillas that the government has just signed a peace deal with are loathed by more than 95% of the country. He then managed to convince people that as soon as the FARC were allowed to enter politics, they would win the next elections, and their leader, a Marxist has-been who goes under the nom de guerre of ‘Timochenko,’ would be installed as president. It would seem that more than half of the Colombians who voted on Sunday were unable to see the flaws in Uribe’s argument.

Boris Johnson, now the United Kingdom’s foreign minister, openly lied to voters about the millions of pounds his country handed over to Brussels each week, as well as suggesting to the tame electorate there that if Britain stayed in the EU, Turkey’s population of 78 million would immediately move to the sceptered isle once borders were opened.

Boris Johnson openly lied to voters about the millions of pounds his country handed over to Brussels each week

Meanwhile, it would require a book to document each of Trump’s lies, but the biggest, that only a 3,200 kilometer wall can stop the hordes of Mexican rapists and drug traffickers currently pouring into the United States, is the one that has really fired the collective imagination of his faithful band of followers.

In each case – Uribe, Johnson and Trump – lies have been used to spread fear, the most basic of human emotions, which paralyzes small children’s thought processes, which appeals to the terrors that would have assailed our most ancient ancestors, and that are seemingly hardwired into the depths of our reptilian brains.

It’s almost as though our ability to rationalize has declined in relation to the amount of information we are now subject to via the internet. Science evolves, but not the human animal. Infantile and primitive, we are prey to the most basic of vanities and crazed desire for power of our alpha males.

This year may have highlighted the problem more than usual, but it’s really no exception to the rule.

English version by Nick Lyne.

More information