The Oxford English Dictionary has declared “post-truth” as the most popular word of the year. Use of the term has increased by around 2,000 percent in 2016 compared to last year. The dictionary defined the word as “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotion and personal belief.”
The editors of the dictionary relate this mainly to the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump as president of the U.S. “I wouldn’t be surprised if post-truth becomes one of the defining words of our time,” said its president Casper Grathwohl.
Trump’s election has apparently shaken the world. Many wonder how Trump could become the president of the biggest power in the world, when his rhetoric toward refugees, Islam, all sorts of “others,” and women has drawn condemnation from all around the world.
Yet aren’t many people mouthing similar sentences in the U.S. and around the world? Isn’t this the fact that has caused half of American voters to choose Trump? In other words, isn’t Trump a direct reflection of these people? Shouldn’t the change start from within ourselves if we want to see a different president?
So the right question to ask is the following: How have these people of the far right (recently redefined as the “alt-right”) emerged? The answer is as simple as it gets: “Globalization.”
The globalized world has apparently exacerbated income gaps and inequality within countries. It has also put pressure on local identities. As a result, the frightened and disadvantaged masses have stuck to their identities. They have tightly embraced what they call “us” and marginalized the “other” (i.e. everything that is different to them). This has escalated the hatred between “us” and “them.”
Trump’s election has thrown this reality into our face. The world is being shaken by constant questioning from people asking “How has humanity reached this point?” and “Where did we do wrong?” Terms such as “globalization,” “democracy,” and “elites” are being constantly interrogated.
A kind of global awakening has started. The popularity of the word “post-truth” is a symbol of this awakening. We have started to grasp that our perception is shaped mainly by our emotions, rather than by objective facts.
But we shouldn’t call this reality “post-truth,” as it itself is the reality. It is only now that we realize this and have come to terms with the consequences of our emotions, prejudices and separation of “me” and “you.” Only now have we started to understand that we can emerge into the daylight only if we can overcome this separation.
As a result, ironically Trump’s election seems to herald a kind of enlightenment. The current apparently destructive trend might well lead to a more just global order. So perhaps we should see this as an “entrance to the world of truth” rather than a “post-truth world.