The rise of anti-intellectualism

Only a week ago, the words President Trump sounded like satire – at least to me, living far away from the states in Australia. However, 60 million people voted for him, and the world faces an interesting future.

So what, some might say, you don’t live in America? What does it matter? Aside from Australia’s strong ties to America (thanks to WWII), it matters because Trump’s election victory is a symptom of the wider rise in society of the anti-science movement.

We live in a world where people genuinely believe that life-saving vaccinations are evil, that science can’t be trusted (except for the science that gave us the internet so we can shout about it). People like David Wolfe, who believe that gravity causes arthritis, and salt keeps water attached to the earth, have more followers on social media (8.3m on facebook) than esteemed scientists like Neil deGrasse Tyson (3.5m) and Bill Nye The Science Guy (4.6m).

Climate change ‘sceptics’ are easier to understand, because the current answers are uncomfortable. But that only means we need to fund more science. Not follow the people, like Trump, who want you to think it’s a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.

Trump won because he appealed to the rise in anti-intellectualism. He spoke a racist, sexist platform than 60 million people agreed with. Not only that but his Vice President beliefs that gay people can be ‘cured’ by electrocuting them, that women don’t own their bodies (he has that in common with Trump – although they come at it from opposite ends), and that smoking doesn’t kill. The list of his anti-science standpoints is a long one.

Several writers have drawn parallels to the fall of the Roman Empire, the rise of Hitler, and other dictators. That’s not to say that Trump will go down this road, but the risk is there. Let’s hope that people see that risk and join forces to prevent this possible future.

If we are to use history to project – the next item to keep watch out for is book burning. Hilter’s SS burned books on the streets. Stalin put writers and journalists into gulag camps. Read about the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976 in China) and how it influences Pol Pot to also murder educated people first (more came later). This is recent history. It’s not something that happened eons ago. If you want that, the Romans burnt down libraries when their Empire fell.

 Image from Wikipedia: 1933 book burning in Nazi Germany

The interesting part of this projection come when you contemplate the romance genre. If the USA gets to the stage of book burning, banning writers and other thinkers, there are two options for romance.

Unlikeliest is that romance will be recognised properly as a feminist genre. Romance writers have fought for this stance for a long time. If this is true, romance will be high on the ban list.

Much more likely is that romance will continue to be dismissed as trash. This option makes me smile. Why? Because this gives us a strong voice and a medium to tell subversive stories. A good history of the genre and how it does this is Maya Rodale’s Dangerous Books for Girls.

What can we do today? Today we can read as many diverse books as possible. Trump won on a racist, sexist platform. Support writers who represent all the things his voters voted against – read LGBTIQ books, read Muslim books, read books written by African American authors, read books by disabled authors, read all the books by all the people Trump wants to suppress.

I buy a lot of books, but I’ve gone through my purchasing history and here are a few books that met the guidelines above that I’ve bought in the last couple of months.
Stan Grant – Talking to my Country
Alyssa Cole, etc – Daughters of a Nation: A Black Suffragette Historical Romance Anthology
Mary Creese – Ladies in the Laboratory (Vols 1,2,3)
Alexis Hall – For Real
Justina Ireland – Promise of Shadows & Vengeance Bound

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