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Post-fact post-truth world

By Kristof Decoster
on November 28, 2016

Last week, at the global conference on health promotion in Shanghai, Margaret Chan used,  as far as I know at least, for the first time the (increasingly familiar) term “post-fact, post-truth” world to describe the world in which ‘health for all/UHC/…’ as well as scientific knowledge now have to be defended. We all have our work cut out. A week before, at the Health Systems Research conference in Vancouver, sardonic jokes on the shock Trump victory were fairly common, but the issue (and its vast ramifications for global health and global solidarity in general) weren’t really tackled head on in sessions or plenaries. Probably the news still had to sink in a bit.

As mentioned before on this blog, I was less surprised about Brexit than about Trump’s victory, probably because I have less illusions left on the European Union myself as an agent of progressive change. Still don’t really understand how so many Americans could vote for a narcissist “groper-in-chief”, though, to incarnate change.

But the ultra-short cause I’d want to make here is not a political one. Yes, many people have become very cynical about the establishment & elites in recent years, sometimes for good (political and economic) reasons,  and that’s no doubt been a huge factor in the rise of populism all over the western world.  After the victory of Trump, I’ll try to refrain from doing this, as it’s now clearly become counterproductive. As the legitimacy of elites is going further down the drain, the alternative world that is emerging is even less enticing, to put it mildly.

But disillusion can have many origins. Adam Curtis’ documentary “Hypernormalisation” captured some of them, among others the feeling of many that increasingly we live in a “fake world”, in politics, our jobs, …

I’d like to add another element. At least for older (white? / male?)  voters (with whom I increasingly empathize as I get balder and only a bit wiser 🙂 ), I also feel there’s always a danger of becoming a tad cynical if you’ve made just a few too many compromises in your life, haven’t stayed “true” to what you deep down think should’ve been the core mission of your life. Even if such an overarching goal of one’s life is largely an illusion, it’s an illusion many of us cherish. That sort of ‘Post-Truth’  life is probably the hardest one to deal with.  And it’s not one politicians or even the well-intentioned global health community can address.  To be sure, there are always heaps of excuses available to make certain compromises, many even good ones, certainly in the neoliberal and insecure world we’ve all had to adjust to over the last decades.

Compromises are increasingly being ridiculed now in politics in the West, certainly in ‘post-fact post-truth’ times in which opponents are being branded ‘un-American’ before they even know it. That’s a shame. Even if you are of different views, you should be able to at least listen to your opponent and try to find common ground. The same is true for one’s professional & personal life, by and large. Also there, compromises tend to be ok, more often than not. But you can’t make too many. That’s one “fact” you’d be wise not to ignore.  It’s a balancing act not all of us get right.

Wonder how many Trump voters belonged to the latter category.

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