Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Election aftermath

Last night was probably the coldest I've experienced in Spain this year, although I don't suppose the temperature dropped below twelve degrees. I work up several times, and couldn't resist a quick check on the American Presidential election commentary, and as proceedings developed it was harder to get back to sleep. I ended up hunting for another blanket as I wasn't conserving heat, after reaching for a phone or tablet on which I could listen to BBC news. By dawn, it was clear that there was going to be a major upset, not predicted by the polls, unexpected, as with the Brexit vote. 

The only early indication of Trump's victory came from a tech' blog commentator on Wired.com, pointing out that traffic analysts had noticed Twitter and other social media platforms were getting a disproportionately high volume of Trump favoured input, reflecting the same trend observed during the campaign. Trump seemed to be constantly in the news spotlight for his outrageous remarks, as social media would be the first place reporters would look for material to write about. 

Social media distributes and promotes information and disinformation, facilitating discussion outside the range of news media intelligence trawls and it happens much faster than news media can deliver. Trump's media strategists and activists contributed to his victory, and got people out to vote who had abstained or never voted before. Perhaps something similar was happening in the Brexit campaign, that wasn't adequately taken into account by those who thought they were going to win, and even took by surprise those who weren't sure they'd win. Only those who are really marketing savvy would notice the trend, from their own experience of commercial brand promotion.

So, America has been sold Trump, as it might have been sold soap, or a Carribean time-share. Across the world his victory has evoked nervous reactions. Everyone is wondering how much of his blustering rhetoric he meant, and which outrageous statements if any, he will translate into policies affecting the lives of billions, and potentially the fate of the planet and humankind, if he disregards the latest climate change treaties, or is willing to use nuclear weapons as more than a deterrent threat. 

From Trump's victory speech, he has adopted a more dignified conciliatory posture, appealing for all parties to unify around his presidential leadership for patriotic motives. Obama and Hilary Clinton also made suitably dignified and patriotic noises of support for the presidency. A time honoured ritual, yet the exceptional toxicity of the campaign, undermined confidence in both main candidates. 

It's clear Trump won't have high popularity ratings as President, but no matter what he achieves, will he be trusted or respected? The media onslaught has exposed all the ills and weaknesses of the American political system. The ensuing loss of innocence cannot be ignored or hidden. In America, as in the UK, we are entering uncertain times. Navigating through whatever happens next when the collective moral compass has been trashed and tossed aside, is a real cause for concern.

I emerged from the house mid-morning and went for a walk, to get away from the radio and internet. A broken night's sleep made me feel like I had a hangover, despite several alcohol free days. It's hard to take it all in, hard to know how to pray about these affairs. Living with change and interpreting change from a faith perspective, is what I've been doing for most of my ministry. At my time of life that's about all I can do. Brexit, this election and all that accompanied both, however, represent what gets called 'disruption' these days, an unexpected and radical shift in the process of change itself. It challenges and shakes up our thinking in a way that is bewildering. Where do we go from here? 

After lunch I had a call from Alwyn asking if I could contact Mojacar's parish priest Fr Manuel and check he has the date for this year's bi-lingual ecumenical service of lessons and carols in his diary. I checked what I thought was the right thing to say with Google Translate, and called him. I was so pleased that he understood me and that I understood his affirmative response. Daily language drills using the DuoLingo Android app help greatly to anchor vocabulary and sentence formation in my memory, but what I most need is full time exposure to life in a Spanish speaking family and community. Having to speak French most days in Geneva did wonders for learning achievement. I need the same opportunity here in Spain!

In an effort to shut the news out of my head for a little longer, I went out for another walk at tea time, but only as far as the rio Aguas, and then circumnavigated the inland lagoon (if that's what this stretch of inland watercourse is rightly called) on the beach side. I got some photos of the first of the Egrets returning to roost, and several of warblers, though figuring out which kind of warbler, is another matter. I think there are several in this stretch of wetland. A very satisfying sort of distraction, before the sun slipped away behind Mojacar Pueblo and the Sierra Cabrera through an array of tinted dark clouds.
         

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