One Coin, Two Sides: Brexit and Trump

by Jeff Schweitzer

Jeff Schweitzer is a scientist and former White House Senior Policy Analyst; Ph.D. in marine biology/neurophysiology

That any voter would support Donald Trump to become leader of the free world seems beyond comprehension to many, a phenomenon outside the realm of understanding. That voters in the U.K. would approve a referendum to leave the EU seems perplexing given the chaotic and costly aftermath, clearly predictable prior to the vote. These distinct events, separated by a fierce ocean and centuries of culture, would at first appear to be unrelated or at best connected only through the reports from a homogenized global media. But Trump and Brexit are in fact one and the same thing, one coin with two sides, an orange head one on side and tails wagging the dog on the other.

In 1873 James Clerk Maxwell laid the foundation for modern physics when he proved that light and magnetism were not separate phenomena. Instead, Maxwell showed that what appeared to be two distinct things were actually two phases of one reality, electromagnetism. Einstein said of this discovery: “This change in the conception of reality is the most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton.”

As with electromagnetism, Trump and Brexit are similarly two phases of the same state of matter, Brexitrump, the merging of what seems to be two into one. What we are experiencing is yet another, and more pernicious, “change in the conception of reality.” This time Einstein would be less enthusiastic.

A New Reality

Our earliest ancestors gazed at the night sky and in the random distribution of stars above saw the comforting order of constellations.  Today we look up and discern shapes of animals in the wispy condensation of clouds.  We breathlessly share on social media images of Jesus on burnt toast or the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich or Elvis as a potato chip.  Welcome to pareidolia, the human brain’s amazing ability to perceive patterns where there are none.
 
In the Beginning... 
 
We humans cannot turn off our instinct to see familiar shapes in the world around us; pareidolia means that our brains demand that there be order even when none exists.  And just as we abhor the absence of visual order, we too are unable to accept the unsettling idea of “I don’t know” when confronted with the disorder of the unfamiliar.  So we make up comforting answers to all that perplexes us, just as we create reassuring images from clouds and toast.  By making up answers to dull the sting of ignorance, we fool ourselves into thinking we explain the world, that we see design and significance — even in the absence of both.  
 
Filling the Void 
 
To put all of this in blunt and crude terms: We make shit up, and then insist the crap we just made up is true because we believe it.  So in the abyss of great uncertainty, our ancestors developed elaborate creation myths and gods of the sun rain and oceans to explain the mysteries and happenings of daily life.  War gods helped in victory, or not.  Fertility gods helped, or not. 

Aching with this need to fill the void of the unknown, people across time and place all share a compelling quintet of yearning on which our early conceptions of reality were founded:  fear of death, the desire to explain away nature’s mystery, hopes for controlling one’s destiny, a longing for social cohesion and the corrupting allure of power. These are the five pillars of religion.  Note that nowhere in that equation of religion’s foundation is a demand for reason, fact or evidence to support one’s belief.  Instead, the religions we create demand that we simply believe through faith, as a means of self-justification.  Pareidolia predisposes us toward such folly.  A great leap it is not from seeing an image in a cloud to believing that the image is real.  We gladly believe, we desperately want to believe, in the god we created, in the images and answers we made up.  We do so in the absence of any objective supporting evidence because faith tautologically rejects the idea that such evidence is necessary. 
 
Religion is like our appendix, a vestigial remnant from a primitive past.  Perhaps in a few millennia the god of Abraham will invoke the same curious amusement as rain and sun gods do today.  Or perhaps our god will simply be shelved along with Zeus and Jupiter.  Some day.  But until then, we suffer the consequences of a population that believes in the absence of evidence; and more curiously, rejects an objective reality that conflicts with beliefs easily proven false.  And this leads us to the politics of today.   
 
In our rush to still the pang of ignorance, we confound faith and fact.  And so we get Brexitrump. Pareidolia rears its ugly head as we see things that are not there and are blinded to things that are.  Because faith demands no proof, people cling stubbornly to a belief in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence.  We see patterns because we want to; we reject what we dislike because faith allows that.  Faith trumps fact.  Reality is optional.  And that is what makes Brexit and Trump two phases of one thing — they each could only exist in the absence of a commonly understood and broadly accepted conception of an objective reality that is independent of our individual biases.

If we all agree the sky is blue, we have an opportunity based on that common understanding for discussing why it is blue, how it got that color, and what is the color’s significance. But if I insist the color is green, and you claim the color to be puce, both of us rejecting evidence to the contrary because we simply believe, then we have little common ground for any discussion at all. Brexitrump exists solely as a consequence of this type of willful ignorance and blind faith that together prevent reasonable dialogue based on a shared conception of reality.

Fiction, Faith and Fact 
 
The “change in the conception of reality” is not benign. Ignorance kills. In Africa, eight healthcare workers combating the Ebola epidemic were killed by an angry mob who believed the doctors and nurses were infecting people with the virus.  The population most in need of help murdered the only people who could provide assistance.  People acted against their own best interests because of an altered conception of reality. Facts and evidence were rejected as irrelevant.

As do those African villagers, some people vote for Trump or to leave the EU intoxicated by a conception of reality that does not correspond to any objective truth.  Without us being anchored together by a shared understanding of that objective truth, reality is an option to be rejected whenever the real world gives us something unpleasant.  As in Africa, this deadly ignorance is borne of unfounded fear and denials based in the irrational rejection of basic established fact. 

When fiction becomes confused with fact, anything goes, freed from the constraints of reason. The conclusions from years of careful research, scrutinized by competing scientists and published in peer reviewed journals carry no more weight with the public than the random thoughts of a bloated pundit.  Talking heads with no training now have the same authority as highly qualified experts.  So global warming is dismissed as a liberal hoax in spite of a preponderance of scientific evidence.  Climate and weather are mistakenly thought to be the same so that with every winter storm comes the pathetic and childish denial that the world could not be getting hotter.  When presented with evidence, skeptics selectively demand more “proof” without understanding what that concept means in scientific inquiry.  Yet, with considerable irony, when we are not discussing climate change, many hold beliefs securely for which there is no proof at all, the flipside consequence of misunderstanding the scientific method.   The anti-vaccine movement demands no proof of the link to autism, which has been thoroughly discredited.  They simply believe.   
 
This elevation of faith to fact, and confusing belief with evidence, has real consequences, and not just in remote villages in Africa.  Nowhere can that be seen more clearly than in conservative opposition to President Obama over the past seven years.  By untethering ties to reality, by claiming faith is sufficient proof of any belief, the GOP can with a straight face blame Obama for everything bad, no matter how far removed from Obama in reality; and give him credit for nothing good, independent of how directly his actions led to that good. No leap of logic or time or reason is too great for them to link Obama with something undesirable; and no cause and effect no matter how obvious or self-evident is too strong for them to dismiss, reject or ignore.  Facts do not matter. 
 
The idea that the GOP has substituted faith for fact is easily enough proven.  Take any area of improvement:  lower unemployment, rising stock market, declining gas prices, an expanding economy, health care; and then ask any conservative friend if Obama can be credited for any of that.  When the inevitable answer is no, ask the following question:  is there any circumstance, any result, any area of improvement that can be attributed to Obama?  Elevated gas prices were his fault, but prices lowered in spite of him.  He was blamed for the declining stock market he inherited, but given no credit for a market that more than doubled during his tenure.  His economic policies were blamed for high unemployment but those same polices have nothing to do with rates falling below six percent.  What could Obama have done, what outcome could we have seen, for which a conservative would be willing to credit him?  The untenable but predictable answer is none, at least in the faith-based world of the right wing. 

Brexitrump and Faith-based Promises

This hateful rejection of reality is the direct precursor to the rise of a demagogue like Trump. This rejection of fact as a basis for discussion leads to Brexit. No? Let’s look at the claim that “we send the EU £350 a week; let’s fund our NHS instead,” a campaign slogan that gained great traction. Never mind the claim is not even correct; but what now after the election? Less than 24 hours after the vote, the loudest proponent of that idea and head of the UK Independence Party, Nigel Farage, said that the promise was a “mistake.” Farage went on to say when asked if he could fulfill his promise to fund the NHS with money saved from leaving the EU, “No, I can’t, and never would have made that claim.” He repeatedly made that claim, and it was one of the campaigns most prominent ads. This surrealistic disconnect can only exist when our new conception of reality rejects truth as an annoyance.

Much of the “Leave” campaign was based on concerns about immigration. Those in favor of leaving the EU wanted to take control of immigration policy on the idea that by being in the EU Britain lost control of its borders. This influx of immigrants was said to result in loss of jobs, an increase in crime and a severe strain on social services. For many voters, leaving the EU was the means of solving these problems. Voters were given that very promise. But Tory MEP Daniel Hannan told BBC immediately after the vote that leaving the EU will not “automatically reduce immigration” which directly contradicts one of the central promises of the campaign. Explaining that there was going to be little or no change in immigration after the vote, Boris Johnson (a leader of the Leave movement) said that the UK was not “pulling up the drawbridge” and that “we cannot turn our backs on Europe.”

The two most important premises of the Leave vote were based on falsehoods. This is possible in a world in which facts no longer matter, in which the new conception of reality no longer requires facts or reason or proof or common sense, just faith that what we believe is true because we believe it. Maybe history will prove that leaving the EU was beneficial to the UK; but if so it will turn out to be so for none of the reasons promised.
 
We come to this deep divide of Brexitrump, this unbridgeable political chasm, because politicians no longer need to be constrained by a shared truth.  Facts are dismissed as irrelevant to the greater ideal of faith.  This slide away from an objective reality is the primary cause of extreme polarization and the rise of demagoguery because faith allows for the creation of an alternative universe in which an opponent is easily demonized by dismissing ameliorating facts.  A big leap it is not from believing in god and the devil, to believing in anything at all, including that the president is a radical Christian, but also a Muslim, and a foreign citizen socialist who will take your guns away, or that Trump could be president or that Brexit makes sense.  Facts don’t matter; we create a fictional order in the face of randomness and then call that real; and the chasm becomes ever wider.  Faith and ignorance are not benign, and become downright dangerous when confused with rationality.   Brexitrump is the consequence of this destructive confusion arising from the new fact-free conception of reality.






Dr. Jeff Schweitzer is a marine biologist, consultant and internationally recognized authority in ethics, conservation and development. He is the author of five books including Calorie Wars: Fat, Fact and Fiction (July 2011), and A New Moral Code (2010). Dr. Schweitzer has spoken at numerous international conferences in Asia, Russia, Europe and the United States.Dr. Schweitzer's work is based on his desire to introduce a stronger set of ethics into American efforts to improve the human condition worldwide. He has been instrumental in designing programs that demonstrate how third world development and protecting our resources are compatible goals. His vision is to inspire a framework that ensures that humans can grow and prosper indefinitely in a healthy environment.Formerly, Dr. Schweitzer served as an Assistant Director for International Affairs in the Office of Science and Technology Policy under former President Clinton. Prior to that, Dr. Schweitzer served as the Chief Environmental Officer at the State Department's Agency for International Development. In that role, he founded the multi-agency International Cooperative Biodiversity Group Program, a U.S. Government that promoted conservation through rational economic use of natural resources.Dr. Schweitzer began his scientific career in the field of marine biology. He earned his Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. He expanded his research at the Center for Learning and Memory at the University of California, Irvine. While at U.C. Irvine he was awarded the Science, Engineering and Diplomacy Fellowship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.Dr. Schweitzer is a pilot and he founded and edited the Malibu Mirage, an aviation magazine dedicated to pilots flying these single-engine airplanes. He and his wife Sally are avid SCUBA divers and they travel widely to see new wildlife, never far from their roots as marine scientists..To learn more about Dr Schweitzer, visit his website at http://www.JeffSchweitzer.com.


To follow Jeff Schweizer on Twitter, please click here.

For Jeff Schweitzer web site, please click here.

Below link to Amazon for Jeff Schweitzer's latest book.


TO FOLLOW WHAT'S NEW ON FACTS & ARTS, PLEASE CLICK HERE!




 


This article is brought to you by the author who owns the copyright to the text.

Should you want to support the author’s creative work you can use the PayPal “Donate” button below.

Your donation is a transaction between you and the author. The proceeds go directly to the author’s PayPal account in full less PayPal’s commission.

Facts & Arts neither receives information about you, nor of your donation, nor does Facts & Arts receive a commission.

Facts & Arts does not pay the author, nor takes paid by the author, for the posting of the author's material on Facts & Arts. Facts & Arts finances its operations by selling advertising space.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Essays

Added 12.06.2018
Extract: “Nothing is beautiful except what is true,” Cézanne once said, “and only true things should be loved.” As the philosopher Jacques Derrida put it: “The truth in painting is signed Cézanne.” Perhaps it is this above all else that makes him the indispensible painter for our times, this era of so-called ‘post-truth.’ For Cézanne “painting was truth telling or it was nothing.” That is what it meant to paint from nature, to be primitive, to be free from all affectation, to be like those “first men who engraved their dreams of the hunt on the vaults of caves…” This is why we need to look and look again at Cézanne. And it is perhaps best that he has come to the National Gallery, to D.C., but a stone’s throw away from where truth is daily made a mockery of, and lies are proffered with breathtaking ease.
Added 06.06.2018
Extracts from the article: "Johnson and Johnson recently announced that it was halting a clinical trial for a new Alzheimer’s drug after safety issues emerged. This latest failure adds to the dozens of large, costly clinical trials that have shown no effect in treating this devastating disease. The growing list of failures should give us pause for thought – have we got the causes of Alzheimer’s all wrong?".............."Another option is to look at the risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s. One of these is type 2 diabetes." ............"Testing these [diabetes] drugs in animal models of another neurodegenerative disorder, Parkinson’s disease, also showed impressive effects, ............These new theories bring a fresh view on how these diseases develop and increase the likelihood of developing a drug treatment that makes a difference. To see any protective effect in the brain in a clinical trial is completely new, and it supports the new theory that Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease are caused, at least in part, by a lack of growth factor activity in the brain. These new theories bring a fresh view on how these diseases develop and increase the likelihood of developing a drug treatment that makes a difference."
Added 01.06.2018
Extract from the article: "The most common defense of truth is the pragmatic one – namely, that truth works; that true beliefs are more likely to get the job done than those that are not true. The pragmatic account of the value of truth is not wrong, but at the same time it is not enough. Truth is not valuable for solely instrumental or extrinsic reasons. Truth has intrinsic value as well. When we reduce the value of truth to instrumentality, it is a very short step to saying that we just want beliefs that work for us, regardless of whether they are true or not."
Added 14.05.2018
During the first century of modern art, Paris was a magnet for ambitious artists from all over Europe. Remarkably, the current exhibition at Paris’ Petit Palais tells us that “Between 1789 and 1914, over a thousand Dutch artists traveled to France.” Prominent among these were Ary Scheffer, Johan Jongkind, Jacob Maris, Kees van Dongen. But of course most prominent were Vincent van Gogh and Piet Mondrian.
Added 10.05.2018
The Jewish Museum in New York City is currently presenting the work of Chaim Soutine (1893-1943), featuring just over thirty paintings by one of the most distinctive and significant artists of the early twentieth century. Focusing on still life paintings, of which he was a master, "Chaim Soutine: Flesh" includes his vigorous depictions of various slaughtered animals - of beef carcasses, hanging fowl, and game. These are dynamic works of great boldness and intensity, and taken together they constitute a sustained and profoundly sensuous interrogation of the flesh, of carnality - of blood, skin and sinew.
Added 08.05.2018
The impact of air pollution on human health is well-documented. We know that exposure to high levels of air pollutants raises the risk of respiratory infections, heart disease, stroke, lung cancer as well as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. But there is growing evidence to suggest that air pollution does not just affect our health – it affects our behaviour too.
Added 05.05.2018
 

The May bank holiday is intimately linked to labour history and to struggles over time spent at work. In the US, May Day has its origins in the fight for an eight-hour work day at the end of the 19th century.

Added 01.05.2018
Quote from the article: "Who is talking about how globalized the world was between 1880 and 1914 -- until war broke out and fascists subsequently determined the course of history -- and the parallels between then and now? Globalization always had a down side, and was never meant to last forever -- but the gurus chose not to talk about it. It is always just a question of time until economic nationalism reappears, but the gurus have done a poor job of addressing the nexus between economics and politics, and its impact on business, which is the real story."
Added 29.04.2018
"......if we did manage to stop the kind of ageing caused by senescent cells using telomerase activation, we could start devoting all our efforts into tackling these additional ageing processes. There’s every reason to be optimistic that we may soon live much longer, healthier lives than we do today."
Added 29.04.2018
Many countries have introduced a sugar tax in order to improve the health of their citizens. As a result, food and drink companies are changing their products to include low and zero-calorie sweeteners instead of sugar. However, there is growing evidence that sweeteners may have health consequences of their own. New research from the US, presented at the annual Experimental Biology conference in San Diego, found a link with consuming artificial sweeteners and changes in blood markers linked with an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes in rats. Does this mean we need to ditch sweeteners as well as sugar?
Added 25.04.2018
Female doctors show more empathy than male doctors. They ask their patients more questions, including questions about emotions and feelings, and they spend more time talking to patients than their male colleagues do. Some have suggested that this might make women better doctors. It may also take a terrible toll on their mental health.
Added 25.04.2018
The English-born Thomas Cole (1801-1848) is arguably America's first great landscape painter - the founder of the Hudson River School, the painter who brought a romantic sensibility to the American landscape, and sought to preserve the rapidly disappearing scenery with panoramas that invoke the divinity in nature. The Metropolitan Museum of Art's "Thomas Cole: Atlantic Crossings" is an astounding exhibition featuring a painter of extraordinary power and vision, underscoring his environmentalism and the deep sense of loss that pervades many works as he reflects on deforestation, the intrusion of the railroad, and the vanishing beauty of the untrammeled wilderness.
Added 23.04.2018
Quantitative evidence from three independent sources — auction prices, textbook illustrations, and counts of paintings included in retrospective exhibitions — all pointed to the fact that some important modern artists made their greatest work late in their careers — Cézanne, for example, in his 60s, and Kandinsky and Rothko in their 50s. But the same evidence indicated that other important artists produced their greatest work very early — Picasso, Johns, and Stella, for example, all in their 20s. Why was this was the case: why did great artists do their best work at such different stages of their careers? I couldn’t answer this question until I understood what makes an artist’s work his or her best.
Added 19.04.2018

People of all ages are at risk from diseases brought on by loneliness, new data has revealed.

Added 09.04.2018

I was a senior university student in Baghdad, Iraq. It was March 2003, and over the past few months, my classmates had whispered to each other about the possibility of a US-led invasion and the likelihood that 35 years of dictatorship and tyranny could be brought to an end.

Added 26.03.2018
In 1815, 69-year old Francisco de Goya painted a small self-portrait. Today it hangs in Madrid’s majestic Prado Museum. Next to it are the two enormous paintings of the uprising of May, 1808, in which Madrid’s citizens had been slaughtered by Napoleon’s troops, that Goya had painted in 1814 for King Ferdinand VII, to be hung in Madrid’s Royal Palace. One of these, of the execution of Spanish civilians by a French firing squad, is now among the most famous images in the history of Western art.
Added 15.03.2018

Soon after I enrolled as a graduate student at Cambridge University in 1964, I encountered a fellow student, two years ahead of me in his studies, who was unsteady on his feet and spoke with great difficulty. This was Stephen Hawking.

Added 03.03.2018

A lack of essential nutrients is known to contribute to the onset of poor mental health in people suffering from anxiety and depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and

Added 27.02.2018

Mindfulness is big business, worth in excess of US$1.0 billion in the US alone and linked – somewhat paradoxically – to an expanding range of must have products.