Johannesburg – Former US President Barack Obama has decried the rise of “strongman” politics.
Most American media outlets see this as a coded attack on Trump.
“And a politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment began to appear, and that kind of politics is now on the move. It’s on the move at a pace that would have seemed unimaginable just a few years ago,” he said to applause at a ceremony to mark the 100th year of the birth of Nelson Mandela.
“I am not being alarmist, I am simply stating the facts. Look around,” he added.
“Strongman politics are ascendant suddenly, whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are maintained — the form of it — but those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning.” said the former president, who had mostly remained silent about the new realities sweeping nations from North America to Europe to Asia and Africa.
“In the West, you’ve got far-right parties that oftentimes are based not just on platforms of protectionism and closed borders, but also on barely hidden racial nationalism.
“Many developing countries now are looking at China’s model of authoritarian control combined with mercantilist capitalism as preferable to the messiness of democracy. Who needs free speech as long as the economy is going good?”
“The free press is under attack. Censorship and state control of media is on the rise. Social media — once seen as a mechanism to promote knowledge and understanding and solidarity — has proved to be just as effective promoting hatred and paranoia and propaganda and conspiracy theories,” Obama said.
“Let me tell you what I believe. I believe in Nelson Mandela’s vision. I believe in a vision shared by Gandhi and King and Abraham Lincoln.
“I believe in a vision of equality and justice and freedom and multi-racial democracy, built on the premise that all people are created equal, and they’re endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. And I believe that a world governed by such principles is possible and that it can achieve more peace and more cooperation in pursuit of a common good. That’s what I believe.”
“And I believe we have no choice but to move forward; that those of us who believe in democracy and civil rights and a common humanity have a better story to tell. And I believe this not just based on sentiment, I believe it based on hard evidence.”
Obama also spoke about the politics of lies and the failure to promote objective truth.
“Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up. They just make stuff up. We see it in state-sponsored propaganda; we see it in internet driven fabrications, we see it in the blurring of lines between news and entertainment, we see the utter loss of shame among political leaders where they’re caught in a lie and they just double down and they lie some more.
“Politicians have always lied, but it used to be if you caught them lying they’d be like, “Oh man.” Now they just keep on lying.”