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Donald Trump and the #StarWarsGen

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 30/03/2016 Felix Marquardt
YOUTH POLITICS © Marc Romanelli via Getty Images YOUTH POLITICS

A few days ago, Waleed Mian, a young American from Long Island who was born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan, posted on Facebook, "Young Muslims voting for an old white Jewish guy, that's what America is all about." He was talking about a New York Times article on Muslim electoral mobilization in favor of Bernie Sanders, but the sentiment reflected in his post could have come from a young person almost anywhere in the world. For the Star Wars generation, those of us who see ourselves not only -- not mostly -- as citizens of the United States or Brazil or France or Egypt but as participants in a vibrant and thrilling global economy, nationalism, racism and parochialism are becoming things of the past.
That assertion may seem preposterous at a time when Donald Trump is on track to win the Republican presidential nomination in the US, and while an international refugee crisis has populists, nationalists and sovereignists on the rise all across Europe, from France's National Front to the shrewdly self-styled Sweden Democrats. It might sound even more ridiculous in light of political developments outside the West, where, from Brazil to China to Indonesia to Nigeria, nationalism in some form or another is a fact of political life. A generation or two ago, baby boomers were gathering at Woodstock, joining the peace corps in droves, and rebuilding Europe. Multilateralism and internationalism appeared to be on the rise everywhere. But now?
The truth is that politicians the world around have a tendency to continue to invoke the nation-state as the be all and end all of modern governance because they have a vested interest in it. Yet everywhere you look, the obsolescence of the nation-state is obvious. It is obvious in the way the world's fastest-growing companies are organized around linguistic basins, regions and cities rather than countries. It is certainly apparent for young people, who sense there is something naive if not outright absurd in expecting of leaders elected for a small number of years by constituencies defined solely along national boundaries to adequately tackle issues like climate change, which are by nature global and will take decades at best to be dealt with. They can sense the solutions to these issues will be transnational if they are to be real solutions at all. As the founder of a think tank devoted to youth empowerment in a world where young people are increasingly getting the short end of the stick on a global scale, I can testify that young people are increasingly aware a) that their capacity to change the world at the national level, which is organized by and for their elders, is very limited, but also b) that as soon as they rise above the fray of nations and embrace their condition as citizens of the world, they become a sought-after currency and the world a beauty contest of regions, cities and companies (not nations) to attract the most dynamic and talented among them. And that is a meritocratic global system in which they are increasingly happy to evolve, and in which, increasingly, they see themselves thrive.
Young people, just like their elders, aren't immune to the charms of nationalists, to be sure. But mainstream « moderate » politicians, who are often reluctant to admit as a fact this obsolescence of the nation state, bear some responsibility for the persistence of nationalism as a political force. They purport to continue to act as if nations were the only prism through which to view the world because, at the end of the day, they don't want to to see their own power diminished or shifted to other entities -- non-profits, companies, cities, regions, the European Union, the UN and many other transnational bodies in formation. They act as if their legitimacy was inherently of better quality than that of other bodies. Democracy used to be the worse political system with the exception of all others; now, technology facilitates the emergence of new forms of representation to emerge. Take liquid democracy, a digital tool which allows citizens to participate directly in decision-making processes across a variety of contexts and fields -- national politicians mostly don't want to hear about it, because liquid democracy, and the many other tools like it, diminish their importance and their monopoly on the mechanisms of "democracy" itself.No one wants to give carte blanche to politicians four years at a time anymore. Young people especially sense they should be able to give their vote to a politician on this issue but not on that one.
Whether or not they openly extol the nation-state all year long in their speeches, phrases like the "country of God" and the "country at the top of the hill," or "Eternal France" and our "shared values" (i.e. not those weird Muslim ones) make their way back into the discourse of politicians as soon as they hit the campaign trail. And a funny thing happens when you spend enough time telling people that your country is better than others: Eventually, some people buy it. And then they vote for the "real thing." Not for the Hillary or even the George W version of it, not for the Sarkozy version of "our country kicks your country's butt," not for the Swedish Social Democrat's version of it, but for the Donald's or the Ted's, for Marine Le Pen's in France or Jimmie Åkesson's in Sweden: Politicians who don't just promise national greatness, but insist that national greatness exists only in opposition to those whose skin is darker, who think differently, whose names may sound unfamiliar -- even if those who are "different" are they themselves part of the nation's fabric, are even leaders in its forward trajectory.
It is easy to look at today's political ugliness and feel overcome by pessimism. Yet reasons abound to stay hopeful. If you look at the past five hundred or the past five thousand years instead of looking only at the past fifty, things don't look nearly as bleak. The overall direction we are heading in is clear, and the general trend is actually quite promising. Over time, men (this hasn't been much of a women thing until very recently, which is perhaps part of the problem) have gone from striving to subdue and/or kill any-/every-one outside the family, to trying to subdue and/or kill any-/everyone outside the clan, the tribe, or the nation, to embracing at least the pretense of some kind of international entente. Who can doubt that when technology allows humans to start traveling between Earth and Mars, their country of citizenship won't be quite as relevant?
In light of this millennial trend, the rise of Donald Trump and that of his European counterparts looks more like an inelegant postprandial burp after a century of raging nationalism. Our world is fast becoming that of the Star Wars generation: In Star Wars, what planet one is from -- or even whether one is a human, a Mandalorian, a Wookie, a droid or a Hutt -- is irrelevant. The only things that matter are where you are headed and which side of the Force moves you.
Thankfully, young people know exactly where « the Donald » sits in that respect. A recent USA Today/Rock the Vote poll found respondents under 35 would pick Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, 52-19. Another from the Washington Post and ABC News shows Clinton and Trump essentially tied among people 40 and older, while those under 40 prefer Clinton by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. The future is a simple numbers game, and no politician, no matter how much they wave the flag, can beat those odds.
Mr Trump, you haven't pissed off a constituency or even a set of constituencies. You haven't just insulted women, liberals, Hispanics, Muslims, people who don't like to see nazi salutes at political rallies and swaths of the Republican party. You've picked a battle with an entire generation. And this is a battle you won't win.

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