Police in riot gear move through a cloud of smoke as they detain a protester at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong. Picture: Ng Han Guan/AP Photo

Something is happening in the world. It is clearly visible: The slow but sure rise against political elitism and its divisive ideologies is finally getting global attention. From Hong Kong to Iran, people are beginning to assert their voices in the pubic square. 

The only place where political elitism is still a growing national religion is in the US. 

The financial crisis of 2008 gave us all a glimpse into how bankrupt and corrupt the barons of money were and how dependent they were on the barons of power to use the public purse to bail them out.  

The financial crisis of 2008 happened during the period of enormous faith in public institutions and the power of the market also known as neo-liberalism.  

The doctrine of neo-liberalism is the belief that a free market, individual endeavour, deregulation of financial markets and a less involved state are the foundations of a prosperous state.  

What it does not say is, like in 2008, and now amid a deficit crisis in the US due to Trump’s trade war, that increasingly the barons of money will once again look to the public purse to bail them out of increased bankruptcies under the guise of “supporting our farmers” or “aiding our coal mine industry”. 

In essence, it is a doctrine that says, “While I’m winning and making lots of money, leave me alone as I avoid paying tax, but when I’m bankrupt please use the public purse to bail me out, so that I can be rich again. Oh and don’t touch my wealth that I stored off-shore.” This is happening in elitist political economies all over the world.

The tragic part of it all is that despite having lived through 2008 and seeing the global rise of such governments, a sense-making leadership of both left, right and centre have failed to emerge with a new pathway for governance.

Despite neo-liberalism having played a role in all global crises since 2008, we have been remarkably ignorant in our response to it. 

Neo-liberalism has helped advance the off shoring of wealth, it has advanced the collapse of public health and education, and has been a party to global child poverty while increasing the wealth of the top 1% of its citizens in every economy they are actors in. 

Economies that continue to advance educated urbanites and leave behind masses of poor people will face a future fate of revolt. That is what the record of history tells us. In the economies of a “free” US, a “partially-free” Hong Kong and a state-controlled Iran, the masses of marginalised people are raising their voices. History shows us that elitist politics, in most cases, ultimately ends in war. 

From Hitler to Czarist Russia to France and Hong Kong through to our own service delivery protests, we have all seen the signs of war – from global conflicts to urban warfare. It never ends well. 

As more and more people see a political class that abandons the values of decency, humility and social justice, they rise up to challenge this growing disconnect from the people who rule over them. 

We have a few government ministers who love to publish pictures of the fancy clothes they are wearing. Or pictures of the private schools their children go to. These are the rains that fertilise the seeds of the uprising that is coming. 

The four most common signs of those who are elitist politicians are that they turn a blind eye to ongoing corruption, they are notoriously slow to prosecute their own, they pursue an aggressive agenda of amassing personal wealth and they have a poorly defined agenda of social justice. In a country where children and adults use the bush as a toilet or die on stretchers in under-resourced hospitals, our political classes are out of touch with what people are saying about them.

* Lorenzo A Davids is chief executive of the Community Chest. 

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus