How do vets fit into this brave new world?

01 December 2016, at 12:00am

Periscope continues the series of reflections on issues of current concern.

FIRST WE HAD BREXIT AND NOW WE HAVE “TRUMPIT”. Nine months ago I confidently reassured a colleague that Donald Trump had no chance of winning the Republican nomination, let alone the Presidency. No wonder I stopped betting on the horses years ago.

Now, just like after the Brexit vote, I am not alone among my friends and peers in reeling in disbelief that anyone, and especially not tens of millions of people, could possibly vote for a man who is as blatantly boorish as President elect Trump. But “The Donald” clearly harnessed the huge amount of underlying dissatisfaction among Americans with what was/is happening in their country, and has reaped the benefits of this foresight.

Run riot then relaxed

Along with disbelief at the result I had a certain measure of fear at what Mr Trump might decide to do once he found himself in the White House. My imagination ran riot for a short period, but when I began to look at it more rationally I relaxed a little in the knowledge that the American system has a series of checks and balances (cunningly and wisely built in by its Founding Fathers) that should ensure any excesses (such as a twitchy nuclear button finger) are curbed and in the last resort, “headed off at the pass”.

Clearly, though, the whole electoral campaign and the resulting outcome reinforces my view, stated in a previous Periscope, that we live in “interesting times”. 

There are clear parallels between what happened in the UK referendum and in the Presidential election; not least of which is that the rather odious Nigel Farage has been on the winning side on both occasions. That is some sense of achievement for someone who can cause many a left leaning person’s blood to boil, but Nigel, like Donald, is able to appeal to the otherwise unrepresented masses to boost his support.

It makes we wonder if for rather a long time the “elite” – and I use that term in the wider sense that includes the likes of me and most of my friends – have confidently relied on the masses not to use their right to vote as  a means of ensuring they can be ignored.

It is surely relevant that both the UK referendum and the Presidential vote had some of the largest voter turnouts on record, and I suspect both results might have been even more overwhelming if the Australian system of compulsory voting were adopted.

It seems to me that these two results are the same response from each side of the pond to the developments that have taken place in Western-style democracy over the last few decades.

Origins in the eighties?

It is quite possible that the impetus for those developments can trace its origins to the Thatcher and Reagan era of the eighties and it is perhaps no coincidence that Maggie and Ron had by all accounts a very warm and close personal relationship.

Mrs Thatcher’s view that there was no such thing as society may have been very prescient when one looks at the huge divisions that now exist in the UK, and possibly to an even greater extent in the USA. But is a multi- billionaire property tycoon (glorified estate agent?) the right person to try to heal such divisions?

Well you could argue that he could do no worse than the Establishment (of both political persuasions) has done, since it is they who have allowed such a division to develop over this period, and during their own respective political and governmental “watches”.

What is even more bizarre about this whole affair, is the photo that stared out of many of the newspapers this morning of a beaming Farage and Trump enjoying each other’s company against the backdrop of the rather tastefully decorated interior of Trump Tower.

I’ve not seen as much faux decadence on display since I visited Ashgabat in Turkmenistan, a country not noted for its democratic ideals and tolerance of the masses, which genuinely focuses one’s mind on what the future might or might not hold.

I suspect there are some lessons to be learned from these two results for all of us. Perhaps most important is the stark illustration of the disconnect that currently exists between the so-called Establishment and the common man who appears no longer prepared to “go along” with what he or she is told by those who “know best”. 

The masses have twigged that the “best” is invariably what is considered best for those in power with little consideration for those who have been left behind and consequently missed out on the benefits of globalisation and free trade.

One can imagine the feelings of these disenfranchised citizens are not dissimilar to those experienced by the masses in the run-up to the French Revolution. Indeed, it may not be too strong a point to suggest we are currently witnessing something of a revolution ourselves, albeit at the ballot box and without the need to bear arms.

A long, hard look

In our own profession, our governing body in the form of the RCVS might do well to look at what has happened over the last few months and take a long, hard look at itself.

The levels of engagement from members of the profession in RCVS Council elections are truly pitiful, with less than 16% of those vets eligible bothering to vote earlier this year. That must mean at worst the average vet sees the RCVS as irrelevant to their own everyday existence, or at best considers the Establishment elite will remain pretty much the same regardless of who is elected and in power.

For any Establishment organisation to meander on in such circumstances is almost certainly complacent and possibly self-destructive. It probably wouldn’t take much for a few veterinary Farages and Trumps to emerge and, with the right rhetoric, secure their places on the RCVS Council and create the biggest shake-up in the profession’s governance that has ever been seen.

While that might seem unlikely, how many of you out there thought, like me, that an uncouth and loud-mouthed reality TV star with an extremely bad hairdo would never make it to the White House?

It seems that for now anything is possible and all bets are off. I rest my case and wish you all a Happy Christmas when it comes along.