I was recently reading an article on Politico’s website, politico.com entitled, Donald Trump’s Fictional America. The author, Andrés Miguel Rondón, grew up in Venezuela partially under the regime of Hugo Cháves. He discusses how Cháves created an alternative reality for the people and financially ruined the country at the same time.
“If you think the postfactual world is a recent development, then you should see how Hugo Chávez was and is still mourned in Venezuela. One can safely say that the Venezuelan revolutionary, who from 1999 to 2013 presided over the largest oil boom in history in the most oil-rich country in the world, and yet left behind a hungry, ailing, economically ruined society, was a downright catastrophe for his country’s citizens. A factual catastrophe, as it were. Yet many there, especially the very poor, who are the hardest hit by Chávez’s failed policies, still idolize him as a savior. Some have even set up a religious cult around him.”
Rondón states that the post factual concept is now invading the developed world. Of course, he points to our beloved President, Donald J. Trump, whose war against the truth is well known by now.
“Post-truthism is typically defined as some sort of illness of objectivity, brought on by a rise in subjectivity and sheer emotion. “The truth has become so devalued,” they say, “that what was once the gold standard of political debate is a worthless currency.”
Which brings us to the “blame game.” Why do we have this problem? Rondón goes on to write:
“Many people have been too eager to blame post-truthism and the rise of Trump on a deficiency of education. On sheer showmanship and “sentimental politics,” whatever that is. On the rise of new, data-driven polling and marketing techniques. Some even blame Hollywood. In short: A stupefied populace, prodded listlessly by social media and big data, voted for Trump precisely out of the stupidity of his rhetoric.”
He seemly dismisses the lack of intellect as an excuse, but does not ignore the blame game. His premise is the fundamental reason that Trump won (and this conclusion is not unique to this article) is to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “ Are you better off now than 8 years ago?”.
For many, the answer is no. And to top it off, they themselves cannot be the reason for it. It must be someone or something else, mostly beyond their control.
“But modern populism in the vein of Trump and Chávez can do the same. When citizens ask these leaders why are they suffering, they too get a simple answer: “I suffer because of them.”
So, who do they blame in this post-factual world?
- Countries taking our jobs away
- Politicians (typically of the opposite party)
- The media
- The rich and powerful
There does not seem to be any way to persuade these folks otherwise. Rondón again:
“Constantly trying to disprove, on a daily basis, what Trump says will only bait people into their confirmation biases.”
I see this phenomena in the Church as well.
Disaffected or less active members:
I’ve seen members who fall into a minimum of two camps:
- Uninterested: In the Ward, we usually have several of these folks. Not active in the Church, might accept a visit occasionally, might even attend an activity now and again. But, not really interested in participation in the Church, does not attend Sunday meetings, pay tithing, or wear garments, if endowed. Someone may have asked them why, maybe not. Bottom line: not interested, and in many cases, not even identifies as Mormon.
- The leave it, but can’t leave it alone group: In this group, they may still be members or have had their names removed. They usually have a litany of complaints against the Church and its leaders. Like the example Rondón, “I suffer because of ” They, may have some things in common with the Uninterested member, but cannot be quiet about it.
And yet, some of their complaints are likely justified, so much so, that we have seen a major shift in things like greater transparency in Church History presentation, More realistic view of past Church leaders and more information about controversial topics.
But for me, the bottom line is it is The Church is the Church of Jesus Christ, not Church of Leaders, Church of History or Church of This or That Policy. So, despite all these other things, I cling to the idea that in the end, our testimony of the Savior will win out over all this other stuff.
Women and General Conference
The other example, even more recent than the last election, was the lack of women speakers at General Conference this past week. Only Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President spoke during the Sunday Morning Session. This is a departure from the recent past where at least two Sisters have spoken. The General Women’s session is dismissed simply because it is a week earlier and a member of the First Presidency speaks. So, it doesn’t count. At least relative to the comments I have seen online.
The blame game was evident as the complaints came like a tidal wave. Like the post-factual world of politics, many reasons were speculated upon as to why this occured without any shred of why there was only one sister speaker. Most of the reason given by speculators surround the conspiracy of silencing the female voices in the Church and in the auxiliary leadership.
And yet, there is no evidence of a conspiracy. There was, a major change in the Relief Society Presidency, which may have played a role. Or it was just the luck of the draw this time. I suspect there is no quota of how many of the type or gender of speaker will speak at Conference. The only thing you can count on is the Quorum of the 12 all speak and the First Presidency speaks multiple times. I have no idea. I doubt it was a deliberate effort to silence anyone.
Yet, the comments and concerns, expressed that sentiment. In other words, “I suffer because of them.”
Maybe the blame game has always existed. Seems much worse to me these days.
What do you think?