This weeks reading I had more of an emotional response than an intellectual like that of the Columbus’s journal. As an Argentine, I hold Evita and Peron in very high regards due to what they accomplished and what they mean to us Argentines. Since them, we have always been searching, either consciously or unconsciously, for another Evita and another Peron; subsequently, that leads the nation into offering too much blind faith towards the political actors that identify under the Peronista banner.
Personally it is a very conflicting question to ask how I feel towards the modern Peronistas. The majority of my family are Peronistas and they are very fanatical, a symptom of being Argentine whether that be in politics, fútbol, or religion. When I last visited Argentina in May 2019, the nation was facing a federal election and that only means that protests and national divide was on the horizon. When I tried to speak with my family about Cristina Kirchner and her past criminal allegations they rebuked me with lack of evidence and claims to conspiracies. I share this example because this is a lasting affect the Evita and Peron had on the Argentine people, though Cristina Kushner is not exactly Peronista, she still draws comparisons and tries to gain support under the Peronista populism and people, like my family, are fanatical about Cristina and consider themselves Kirchneristas.
This is were I find a conflict with populism, people are so quick to defend these political figures with out much of a rational filter, as seen in Argentina with the anecdote I mentioned above and also with the Trump supporters we have seen the last 4 years. Populism also has this touch of a Renaissance artist, where it paints a perfect picture of these political actors where they can do no wrong and that is very dangerous because being human is dangerous in itself; we are not still pictures or sculptures frozen in space, we are constantly moving, making decisions, acting upon instincts, and experimenting with unpredictable phenomenons which set the stage for failures and successes. We are bound to make mistakes but with populism, it can be such a dangerous stage to step onto.
Even Evita wasn’t as much as a Saint as she is proposed and I say that with all my honest love. After World War two, she is known to of helped some high ranking nazis escape europe and immigrate to Argentina in exchange for some of their gold and money to help Peron and his election campaign. She is human after all, or in her own words, “another descamisado”.
When it comes to populism, why do the populist have to be so extreme to get the people galvanized and empathetic to populists cause?
What is it about human nature that finds populism so attractive to the masses?
I really liked the parallel you drew between Populism and the paintings of Renaissance artists! To answer your question about human nature and the attractiveness of populism, I really think that it all comes down to the essential human need of belonging. Populism is very explicit when it comes to making the masses, who are usually marginalized by the elite, feel like they belong. With the feeling of belonging also comes the feeling of being protected and having someone look out for you. According to the social identity theory, we are always classifying people as part of our in-group (us) or part of the out-group (other). This happens both in a macro level, for example with national identities, but also in the micro level, like being an UBC student vs a SFU student.