Rethinking Politics


“People fear what they don’t understand and hate what they can’t conquer.” – Andrew Smith

We are living in an era where we experience a real divide between global and national. The Brexit Referendum, the last Austrian presidential election and the United States presidential election in 2016 are all great examples of this ongoing current. According to Alexander Betts, one of our former TEDxVienna speakers, this problem stems from a fear of globalization and the solution is to decrease this fear by enlightening the crowds. It is the fear of the unknown that people are afraid of. Still, some of these efforts can easily come across as patronizing… The thing is, on a local level, benefits of globalization are hard to observe and for some people change is scary. Nationalism, on the other hand, offers a stronger sense of belonging (which is a fundamental human need) by creating an us vs. the world scheme. Now I don’t want this to sound like a polyamorist propaganda, but I think we can belong to and take care of both our local community and the world at the same time.

Some of us are simply more familiar with the concept and benefits of globalism and they just can’t understand the resistance caused by people who are against it. Why can’t we just live together happily ever after? We just can’t, because globalization hasn’t been a happy experience for each and every one of us. It certainly caused some fluctuation in prices and job insecurity. However, both sides have at least two things in common: We all want to be understood and we all struggle when confronted with something unknown to us. 

Today in Austria, we woke up to a new day of elections. With immigration policies and stances on Islam being hot topics, it is safe to say that this will be the most recent election which will have its’ fair share of influence by the fear of globalization.

The fear of globalization: How does it manifest itself in real life?

It can manifest itself as a fear of losing our jobs to immigrants or maybe we are skeptical – is our country still safe with all those open borders? Maybe we are afraid of cultural and social degeneration. Maybe we are concerned about the economical welfare of our country. My point is, it is clear that some citizens don’t feel protected enough by their governments.

What do you do when you are fearful?

Even if we don’t share these fears, we must acknowledge that fear is a deeply rooted emotion. It is a strong emotion that drives human behavior. It doesn’t go away simply and it is not a comfortable emotion to carry around. We try our best to feel safe again. That’s why when we feel fear, we embrace a back-to-basics approach. We want to surround ourselves with what we have previously known because it feels safer that way… or at least it is what we have always known and used to deal with. It makes us feel more in control. Overtime, we developed this bad habit when faced with challenges. It’s almost like we are pushing a restart button and hoping for a better outcome, instead of building upon what already exists… We can do better than that! What feels safe isn’t necessarily what will be better for us in the long run. 

Now don’t get me wrong. Fear is perfectly healthy. It helps us protect ourselves from perceived danger. Yet not every fear is realistic. Wake up your curiosity and look beneath. You may find out that what seemed so scary on the surface may not be that scary, after all. Curiosity kills the illusion.

Today might be the day Austria pushes that restart button. Therefore, I think it is a good day to emphasize the fact that we don’t have to choose between being loyal to our community and being loyal to humankind as a whole. Instead of going back and forth between nationalism and globalism, we can search for a new way that combines them both.

You can watch Yuval Noah Harari, a historian and the author of the international bestseller “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” and TED Curator Chris Anderson discussing the topic below.

Header mage credits to Shutterstock

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About Zeynep Ercan

Coming from the city where two continents meet, Zeynep has a passion for bridging cultures. As a social and cultural anthropology student she is looking for ways to understand the world around her better (and hopes to leave it a better place).

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