We woke up today to news of the British Exit (Brexit) from the European Union.
The Chinese have a curse: “may you live in interesting times”…
The Comic Book Store guy from the Simpsons once said: “there is no emoticon that can describe how I feel right now!”
A historic moment
UKIP, the political party driving the anti-immigration agenda to leave Europe has the pound symbol as its logo. Following the success of their exit campaign the pound went into free fall. Is this the way to treat your most beloved?
But what does it all mean?
The success of the politics of fear
Sorry about repeating myself, but fear is the greatest enemy of compassion. People voted against immigration, against refugees, against having to share without realising that the problems of housing, the Health Service, Schools and Welfare have nothing to do with refugees but they are all consequence of austerity, of neoliberalism, of economic violence: closing hospitals, selling local authorities housing stock without building any more, privatising everything. But the campaign was about fear, “they are coming to take our jobs, our houses, our freedom”.
The campaign was driven by the privileged echelons but working class people, in particular older ones living in the north of England where unemployment and poverty have been creeping in for years, voted massively to leave, they turned out to be the most easily scared by the discourse of paranoia and discrimination.
The politics of fear is a form of violence.
The Prime Minister falls on his sword
What the Panama Papers did not achieve, Cameron’s resignation shamefaced at being caught having deals with Tax Havens he was himself criticising in others, this Referendum has done. It could be seen as the honourable thing to do, or…not being able to stomach presiding over the mess that is indeed coming our way.
The British parliamentary system means that the resignation of the PM does not lead to an election where people democratically vote for a new one, but in fact the party in Government vote internally for the new one. In this case the new PM will be, most likely, one of the Brexiters, Boris Johnson has been described as the main contender. Yes, our very own Trump!
Purely formal rather than real democracy is a form of violence.
The disintegration of the United Kingdom?
Scotland is now demanding another Referendum to become independent from the UK. It lost the last one but this time they voted massively to stay in the European Union, and for that they have to be out of the UK. Scotland has most of the UK oil in the off-shore platforms of the North Sea, and is home to the Trident Nuclear Submarines and missiles system, aka the British Nuclear Deterrent. Relocating the system, given the absence of a convenient deep sea port somewhere else in the UK has been already described as a nightmare. Personally I would like to see it disappear completely, in particular because the price of its renewal keeps going up and stands today at more than £100bn, but more importantly, because nuclear weapons are immoral and useless, but the Government is committed to this course of action and it may use strong arm tactics if they think it necessary.
Ireland is at best ambivalent. There have been some noises in the North about leaving the UK, some have mentioned the possibility of reunification and the markets there have been as jittery as in the rest of England and Wales.
Separatist movements arise because people feel oppressed, their needs disregarded, which is a form of violence.
TTIP, CETA, and other Trade Agreements
Is there a case to rejoice that the European Commission unelected bureaucrats will not be able to impose the corporations-friendly Trade Agreements they are negotiating behind closed doors? In principle, yes.
The problem is that Britain without Europe is being left in the hands of holier-than-thou “free” marketeers ready to do away with all the progressive labour (and environmental) laws created by the EU and to negotiate Trade Agreements by themselves that are more draconian and corporate-friendly than the rest of Europe, also without the benefit of working together with the more popular movements in Europe struggling to counteract the terrible effects of such agreements.
Economic exploitation and inequality are forms of violence.
Expats in Europe and migration
According to a BBC survey there are more than a million British people living in Europe, 1.5 million including part-timers. The FT says “The number of European migrants in the UK is almost exactly balanced by the number of Britons living elsewhere in the EU, according to official figures.” The Guardian gives different figures, 2:1 European to Brits. What will happen with those people? Will they have to relocate, or get visas?
The issue of Britain accepting refugees coming to Europe becomes even more poignant as it was so central to Brexit, including scaremongering from the campaign posters..
Free movement of capital but restrictions on movements of people is a form of violence.
The god-markets and ordinary people
More than £100 billion were wiped off the FTSE 100. The Markets experienced their biggest fall in UK history: eight percent at the start of trade in London. The World Markets also reacted badly. These are the markers used to decide if something is good or bad.
Dehumanisation of evaluation markers is a form of violence.
How is this going to influence the real lives of real ordinary people? The only thing that matters at the end of the day?
Crises can be transformed into opportunities. Undoubtedly this one will be used as a justification by the neoliberals for more austerity, more concentration, more inequality. Others will also engage in a bit more Corbyn-bashing (1), it’s all his fault, like everything else.
People like Jeremy Corbyn and the DiEM25 network, and Bernie Sanders and so many others who carry humanism in their hearts are raising their alternative voices to the present system. They (we) represent the hope for a humanised world in which people, not money, are the central value, where compassion and solidarity can build communities for everybody’s well being, where Reconciliation rather than war is the way to deal with conflict. If we allow the “crisis” to take over our intentionality, fear to guide our decisions and discrimination to cloud our vision of “the other” we will miss the chance to change the direction of humanity careering as it is towards a cliff.
On a less dramatic note, no doubt the financial sector will attempt to stabilise the situation, pretend it’s not so serious and demand just a little more time, a little more stay-at-home patience and a little more sacrifice from us to get back into shape (meaning to continue making their obscene profits from speculation and tax avoidance/evasion asset hiding).
In reality what they do is irrelevant, here is the time to network, communicate, present the alternatives as clearly as possible and inspire those around us to participate, move to the forefront of discussions and transform ourselves and the system in a nonviolent way.
(1) For those who are already claiming Corbyn “failed to deliver” the Remain vote from the Labour heartlands here are some stats:
Labour in: 63%, out: 37%
Conservative in: 42%, out: 58%