An old thing has returned in these teen years of this new, turbulent 21st century: the mass gathering; the rally. Here in the UK, and in the United States, thousands of people gather – oblivious to the warnings about security and the threat of bad weather – to hear one person speak.
This is interesting because we are meant to be in an age of sole agency: we have all of the tools at our command to live our lives pretty much on our own and to thrive, if we so choose. But what we seem to choose, in fact, is to gather and listen to a single voice extolling The Way.
We probably have never trusted the powers-that-be. Why should we? So we turn to someone we can trust. This is not about leadership, but The Leader. He is the One Who Can Show The Way.
This stance creates the “I’m right and you’re evil” mentality that so many of us have now. Donald Trump has called his opponent, Hillary Clinton, “The Devil”. A perfectly logical thing to say in his time of The Saviour.
Nuance; contradiction; a change of the mind: none of these are very welcome these days. I give you the example of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a contestant for the Democratic nomination for US president. Bernie’s campaign was noble and necessary. He drew massive crowds and got people involved in the democratic process. He was in it to win it.
But some of his people had made him into the Saviour of their own cause, and so he was doomed.
When Sanders conceded, and made the great gesture of asking for an acclamation vote for former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton – a fellow human and merely his opponent – some of his own followers booed and derided him. Jane Sanders, Bernie’s wife, has gone on record stating that she didn’t understand why a small number of her husband’s supporters didn’t get behind his decision. But it’s not hard to see why: if you’re looking for a Saviour, the “wrong” decision is a flawed irrelevance. The Search goes on.
There are loads of examples in history of where The Search can lead, and it’s not necessary to exaggerate. The question is: why now? Or rather, has this “now” actually been building for a long time? And is this its moment?
I’d put money on Donald Trump having no idea things would go this far but, being the natural demagogue he is, he’s riding it. His staff are said to be “suicidal” because he’s not sticking to the script.
At the time of this writing, Clinton is ahead in the polls. But Trump’s crowds need him to be the Saviour and, anyway, he loves to play it.
What are we looking for in following these lone people, who in themselves have not summoned us up, called us to come in to being? Maybe it’s utopia. Thomas More coined the word in the 16th century. It is from the Greek. It means “nowhere”.
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