The rise of demagogues in Europe, USA, and in the world is the pink elephant in the room: we perceive it, however, we ignore it.

We didn’t need Brexit or Trump’s election to acknowledge that something was going wrong.

Human Rights Watch delivered just a few days ago its 27th world report, titled “The rise of demagogues: how populism threatens democracy”. In his launching speech, Kenneth Roth, executive director of HRW, pointed out that Trump and other European politicians are gaining or seeking more power through making appeals to racism, xenophobia, nativism and misogyny. They all claim to speak for the majority, Roth says, majorities around Europe and the US that turned on their head to have the entitlement to state which rights can be jettisoned in favour of others.

The arrow in the quiver of these politicians who are fueling these feelings of hatred and racism, is the assumption that nationals are neglected in order to guarantee immigrants, asylum seekers and Muslims’ rights: as a result, minorities are scapegoated, because majorities are more important and so are their rights (to feel safe -as far as terrorism is concerned-, to have a job -in connection with immigrants-, to have the national identity preserved -where asylum seekers’ integration is concerned). 

For instance, Italian people have been told for a while that asylum seekers are hosted in hotels and given a pocket money (which amounts, rumor has it, to 30 euros per day), whereas Italian families are left in a hand-to-mouth condition. This is just an example of scapegoating that has been taking place in Italy for too long now.

To quote from the CNN, “Europe’s populist movements are on the cusp of sweeping far-right, nationalist and euroskeptic parties into power across the continent in a series of upcoming elections.

Once consigned to the fringes of the political scene, these parties now legitimately stand front and center alongside their more traditional counterparts”. Austria had Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPO), who had ridden a populist wave to challenge for presidential power; France has to deal with the popularity of France’s National Front, which has soared in the wake of terrorist attacks and an influx of refugees fleeing Middle East unrest; the UK has revealed its spirit with the Brexit.

USA has its monster to deal with: Trump. It’s just been a few days since his inauguration day, after a strong campaign which was based on a blunt speaking, directed at belittling women, handicapped people, South Americans, immigrants, muslims. He toyed with the media: no trick was used, just the pure and sincere hatred towards others. Many were convinced that it was just a mediatic approach, but just two days ago he revived the building of a pipeline in Native Americans territory, the Spanish version of the White House website together with the LGBT were turned down and just yesterday he signed the executive order for the construction of the wall between US and Mexico.

In conclusion, what we think today it is only rhetoric, we may find out it to be reality tomorrow. We cannot toy with human rights, and even before a question of principles, it is our lives that come at stake.

– Chiara Merlino, Correspondent (Our World)