The election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States has been touted as the biggest American political change since the Second World War — and as such, it is hard for many around the world to process. But we don’t have the luxury of time to ponder.
The challenges ahead, in the sphere of global activism in particular, are too numerous and too great. Right now, we need to dust ourselves off and keep championing the global causes that transcend any one election or a single political figure.
The result of the US election confirmed that too many people have become accustomed to the false comforts of the echo chamber, hearing only those voices that chime with ours. The political class around the world was not only dismissive of Trump as a person, but failed to grasp the despondency and frustration felt by many Americans who feel left behind by rapid technological, economic and social changes.
Many of us failed to adequately comprehend the extent to which so many people feel dismissed — and disrespected — by political and economic elites, who have been the winners from 30 years of globalisation.
The Brexit vote, the election of Trump, the emerging ascendancy of left and right-wing populism in Europe and beyond, cannot be dismissed or ignored. To many, it seems that the idea of global citizenship is illegitimate, and the so-called “cosmopolitan elite”, who pride themselves on transcending petty tribal, ethnic and religious differences, are themselves just another tribe — an isolated and delusional one at that.
But despite the cynicism, as global citizens, we must redouble our efforts to convince friends, family and neighbours that retreating to national and ethnic enclaves is the wrong way to build the world we want. We can’t turn our backs on each other — similarly, we can’t turn our backs on millions across the world whose life is stymied by poverty, preventable disease, lack of access to sanitation and water and restricted education. They need our activism more than ever before.
We cannot change the outcome of an election. But we can double our commitment as fellow global citizens, in India and around the world, in support of the Sustainable Development Goals we all share. We must not disengage from the political process — instead, we must organise more and more effectively. We need to win the battle of ideas with those who seek a more insular world. But we also need to respect their aspirations and fears in the process. Whoever is America’s president, our task as activists is the same as it always was: To organise, agitate, activate and inspire. In fact, more than ever.
Millennials have acquired a reputation of not fighting for much. We’re supposed to have been handed the world on a silver platter. Now, that is not the case. This is our time to start fighting for the world we believe in.
We actually see this happening in India more than anywhere in the world — in just eight weeks since we launched our Global Citizen India initiative in the run-up to the festival on November 19, 1.8 million actions have been offered in support of our campaigns to effect change in education, gender equality, water and sanitation. India’s youth makes it clear — they won’t wait for change. This is the time to build a movement for such global citizens.
Despite the markedly bitter politics over globalisation, we have a responsibility to get back to work for development goals everywhere.
Together, we can still create a culture — of humility, kindness and empathy — tethered to Global Citizen’s mission, aiming to end extreme poverty by 2030, in our shared world.