Failing to Make Sense of the World on A Train Journey to Lausanne

About 10 years ago I took the decision to stop flying in Western Europe. A ‘not in my name’ gesture against climate change.  The only exception so far – best-man’s duties at a stag-do in Lisbon. Otherwise, the Man in Seat 61 and Loco have helped me find train routes to cities across Europe – from Madrid to Vienna, Florence to Zurich.  Its not a massive sacrifice. I am an academic, so time on trains can be spent profitably – reading, writing and (if needs must!) marking.

Today is a day on the train, because tomorrow I am attending the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva. This morning I left my family in London and eight hours later I am getting close to my destination.

Its a Sunday. So I decided to give the work a rest. Before I boarded my train I bought the Observer, the Economist, Time Magazine, the Spectator, Prospect and the New Statesman. My world feels upside down after the US election results last week. I wanted to get views from across the political spectrum that might help me to find myself again.

It hasn’t worked. I have read some great insider pieces from journalists who travelled round the US on the campaign trail (particularly from Zeke Miller and Phillip Elliot in Time). I have digested some interesting analysis of US voting patterns (confirming the importance of racial divides, dislike of Hilary, and the revolt of the ‘rust belt’)  . Everywhere, I have read that what happens next is pretty much impossible to predict.

At the end of my journey, I look back on Morning Me and realize the foolishness of my expectations. People are still in shock. In mourning for kinder times. And there is too much uncertainty for anything deeper and more profound. For now.

But there is one thing missing that does still shock me: No deep reflection from the intellectual elites writing in the magazines I have been reading about the pathways towards re-connecting with ordinary people. Because if there is one thing that the US election showed (as well as the UK’s Brexit vote) it is that ideas from those elites are of marginal importance in big choices people are making about their futures. And commentators in newspapers, just like academics in universities, need to start thinking about how to change that…

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