Prof. Ram Dwivedi
TUFS, Tokyo, Japan
In this post-truth era, it seems that cultural values are dominating the economic and commercial values. At least three states heads-Mr. Trump of the US, Mr. Modi of India and Mr. Duterte of the Philippines have adopted a new style of administration i.e. speak loud and clear, divide people, do something unprecedented, and use social media extensively to justify them. These activities fascinate a segment of citizens, if not all. They need words, they need activities, they need divisions of opinion and they do need the media to influence the minds of people to ensure their supremacy in the post-truth time.
Just two weeks in power Mr. Trump’s administration is taking ‘amazing’ decisions and the rest of the world is feeling a shock. Some leaders are cautiously silent (Mr. Abe of Japan and Mr. Putin of Russia) whereas the others (Mr. Xi Jinping of China and Justin Trudeau of Canada) are cautiously opposing it. Muslim ban by Trump, currency ban by Modi and drug ban by Duterte have drawn the attention of a large people including intelligentsia, social activists, and businessmen. The US, under the leadership of Mr. Trump, will reshape the world order. The USA became the heaven of migrants from every part and from different ethnicity of people. ‘The American dream’ was created and nourished by the people of different nationalities. In true sense it was giving the feeling of ‘global village’ and that’s the reason America fascinates and attracts every individual. Despite tons of criticism, a dream to migrate and live in America never faded. Why? The answer is simple; it's never shut down the doors of opportunities and welcomed the talents from all across the globe. America also played a role of global leader, particularly after the demise of communism and USSR. American presidents self-owned and felt proud to be a global leader and they were eager to shape the political world order. They were thinking just like tradesmen whose primary concerns are economic gains and losses. One can say they were ‘elite’ in their style, administration, and decision-making. That ‘elitism’ is no more relevant and has become a matter of the past. Coincidently, Indian Prime Minister Modi and the US President Trump emphasized their skill of a ‘good businessmen’ during their election campaigns and later on. They try to portray themselves as businessmen and the common people find it as a commendable job. The image of businessmen of leaders now appeals the commoners. Nations are run and gauged by economic wellness. GDP and other similar data reflect the health of a nation. It would be appropriate to call that the 'new nations' have become a ‘commercial ventures’ and citizens are expecting their roles as employees. These ‘citizen-employees’ are demanding and expecting their ‘ceo-leaders’ to perform well and in return provide them better facilities and better lifestyle. They don’t want to share the burden of the others; and the leaders, who can relieve them from this burden, will naturally be accepted and appreciated. In the post-truth phase of history, criticisms can be seen as an opportunity to gain popularity and can easily be diluted by rhetoric, overstatements, and hyperbole. All the three leaders-Trump, Modi, and Duterte are good communicators. They choose their words with a certain amount of sarcasm. They frame their sentences to gain the appeal of their followers. This vocabulary, though seems clear, creates confusion and can be explained and understood in various ways. This multi-layered lingual terminology, controversial statements, and sharp body gestures reflect their confidence and overwhelm. They know the grammar and gimmicks of language. Their speeches, full of blunt phrases, bring them near to common men and have the seducing capability. They can deviate the ‘causes of problems’ to outside of their country or society. For Trump, the problem is ‘migrants’; for Modi it is Pakistan and for Duterte the trouble creators are so-called ‘drug-traders’. Till now approximately 7000 people are killed in the Philippines, by police authorities, without given a chance to explain himself or herself in the court of justice. More than 200 hundred people took their lives due to currency-ban in India. They were not able to withdraw their own money from the banks and in despair, they took this extreme step. Eventually, no authority in India now has a satisfactory answer to justify this move as almost 99% demonetized currency is deposited back in the banks. The fallout of Trump’s travel ban is yet to be assessed, as it has just begun. The reports, demonstrations and hue and cry at the US airports shows a tense, sad and painful scenario. It seems, that dying and declining IS will gain new momentum by this move and extremist Muslims will take this opportunity to polarize the feeling of dissatisfaction. Amazingly all three leaders took these steps ‘abruptly’ without going into deeper discussion and consultation. At one time ‘thrill’ and ‘sensations’ were part of our films. Now a day they are more than real. Be it ‘Brexit’ or ‘Travel-ban’ or ‘Drug-ban’ or ‘Currency-ban’ all these decisions came as unexpected sensational events. It’s time for ‘Post-Truth Patriotism’ (PTP), which emphasizes on national interests. Slogans like ‘America first’ or ‘make America great again’ may not be complete ‘truths’ but surely they are ‘post-truths’ and had an appeal to mobilize the people and receive partisanship. London-based journalist-author, Edward Docx says, there are several statements, which neither be proved or disproved. They become the matter of individual perception. One very common example he cites is ‘ghosts exist’. This is complex perception and endless arguments can be provided in favor or denial. More you argue, more you get confused. One such example is ‘surgical strikes’ conducted by Indian army in Pakistan just a few months ago. Pakistan denied at all and government of India didn’t give any proof citing the reasons of national security and confidentiality. Now, only ghosts know that this surgical strike had happened or not. This is post-truth. Common people are displaced from the truth. Social media, the last hope to unveil the truth, are now burdened with fake identities, photoshopped images, fabricated videos and unauthentic websites. More information does not guaranty a better understanding. It could result in a big confusion too. Blurred truths are served on the minute-to-minute basis.
In the age of SNSs, FB, and Twitter, thousands of unanticipated information is reaching to every individual in a very small span of time. The question is; do we need thrills? The answer could be ‘yes’. But all thrills have a temporary life. For now, the decisions taken by the three great leaders may be seen hilarious by themselves and their supporters but this fascination will not last longer and they will be bound to do something ‘cool’ and normal. In democracies, the public opinion can be distracted momentarily by throwing thrill issues in the air, but as the political history is the witness, it never believes in illusions. In all unexpectedness, uncertainty, and suspense, human societies need mutual trust and better understandings. And this is the truth, that behind all the cultural issues there is at least an economic interest.