The year of being in denial

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Editor's note:

This article first appeared in Live Mint. The views are of the author(s).

The act of denial is a psychological defence used by humans to reduce anxiety when they feel particularly disturbed by events. Nowadays, this phenomenon, where even seemingly rational people will vehemently deny truths, is exacerbated by the advent of alt-facts, which sometimes make the gap between reality and unreality difficult to discern. In 2017, this trend of denial was evident in national, regional and even global affairs.

At the national level, elections from the US to Japan, through Britain, France, Germany and Turkey, have thrown up right-wing nationalist populist parties, and leaders in denial of their fragile mandates. The tenuous mandates are evident in the plummeting popularity of many of the leaders.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron’s popularity dropped faster than any predecessor’s in the first 100 days and stood lower than that of even François Hollande, the most unpopular French leader. Only 36% approved of Macron’s performance. In England, following the disastrous mid-term election gamble, Prime Minister Theresa May’s approval plummeted to 34%.

US President Donald Trump created history of sorts by registering a majority disapproval rating of 51% just eight days after assuming office. Trump’s denial of his unpopularity was mirrored by the “not my president” rallies. Most of these elections reflect deep divisions among the electorate, a quest for unsustainable quick-fix solutions, and the fantasy of leaders that they will be able to deliver, despite the fractious mandate.

In contrast, even as the leaders of the democratic free world struggle to maintain their power, China’s Xi Jinping consolidated his grip through the largely undemocratic process of the 19th Communist party congress, which bestowed upon him unprecedented authority akin to that wielded by the former undisputed leader, Chairman Mao Zedong.

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