Day 63. 27 pages, 8,516 words.
Sorry about the clickbait title, but I’m going somewhere with this. Bear with me.
Over the past year or two, I’ve had a lot of very stupid and counter-productive arguments about Brexit. And to those friends and family I’ve had it with, I apologise. I’m going to put my last word on the actual issue of Brexit right here at the top, just to save time:
Nobody really knows what Britain leaving the EU is going to look like or what it is going to do to their culture or economy. We’re just going to have to wait and see.
The ‘results’ we’re seeing so far might serve as foreshadowing and they might not.
Whatever my uninformed opinion might be, I absolutely hope everything goes fine, because both Britain and its people are lovely. A little damp, but lovely.
So where does racism come into it?
That’s the thing. It doesn’t really. Not in the commonly-understood 2018 definition of the term.
Yes, it’s possible that a lot of pro-Brexit momentum was built up by dislike of the EU’s open borders policies, and the waves of brown people they’re currently bringing into Britain from the Middle East. There’s plenty of fear – and look, tiny minority though they might be, some of these new arrivals are murderous psychopaths and there’s absolutely cause for caution and concern. By all means let’s do an even better job of filtering out those dangerous individuals than we already are. Because don’t let the fearmongering media fool you, we are doing a very damn good job. The fact that we’re not catching all the criminals doesn’t give us license to start talking about Final Solutions. It just means we need to work harder to catch more of the criminals. I think we can do that without losing our humanity.
And those kinds of racists – the foreigner-fearing diversity sceptics – have already lost. Whether Brexit is a resounding success or the entire United Kingdom collapses; whether the US builds a wall around itself and goes full isolationist for a couple of centuries or if it shakes itself, blinks, says “what was that about?” and goes back to being the adorable gluttonous punchline of the western world; whatever takes place next, diversity has happened and will continue to happen. Cultures will mix. Fusions will occur. We’ll continue to talk to each other, we’ll go on travelling and falling in love and interbreeding and we’ll learn to cook using each other’s recipe books. Go home, snowflakes. You are never going to get what you want.
But that doesn’t really help the argument, does it? As has been made clear in article after article and video after video, there are problems with the way the left / liberal / progressive side fought this from the start. And while I will never agree that our crimes against rational discourse and our defecations in the free marketplace of ideas were as respectively severe and as sloppy as those on the right / conservative side, I nevertheless admit we failed.
There was a lot of pointless and counterproductive yelling of insults and heaping of derision and intellectual snobbery, and it’s still going on. I’m by no means innocent, and furthermore I’m unlikely to stop completely because in a lot of cases I feel justified in my criticisms. I know it doesn’t help, but nothing seems to help so what the Hell.
Yes, there were a lot of reasons so many millions of British people decided to vote to leave the EU. Here’s a few of their greatest hits:
- Open borders and fear of overwhelming immigrant numbers / cultural inundation
- The (related to the above) loss of cultural individuality that comes from a united European conglomeration
- The cost of being in the EU, and the possibility of that wealth being shared among a smaller population
- The (related to the above) risks and unfairness of more prosperous countries having to bail out less prosperous countries
- The EU regulations and laws that inhibit businesses and individual freedoms
- Protest voters who just wanted to stick it to Brussels
And so on, and so on. There’s plenty more.
 I’ve got to say, this one is strange isn’t it? We love to criticise the undeserving billionaire mogul-heirs who avoid paying taxes to help the wider community, and yet when it comes to putting some of our nation’s wealth into a communal fund to help less fortunate countries and their citizens, suddenly we are those billionaires and suddenly we see what they’re talking about – we earned that wealth, we didn’t inherit it from some mass-murdering ancestor! Why should we give it to a bunch of layabouts who contribute nothing? Well, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but the billionaires are wrong, and so is anyone who doesn’t want his or her rich-arse stable country to contribute to bailing out a poor, unstable one.
Now, like I say, some of these reasons – held to by a very small and silly group – are absolute twaddle. You’re never going to get your perfectly static and preserved British civilisation of yore, and if you did it would be horrible. You will continue to get influxes of different cultures, many of them from within your own slowly-fading Empire, and they will continue to make you diverse and beautiful. You will continue to find that those hilarious cherished old “politically incorrect” jokes at the expense of once-voiceless minorities are less and less acceptable and when you tell them, or try to defend them, people will make you feel shitty about it. If you have a problem with any of that, I’m delighted to tell you it’s already over. You’ve lost. And you deserved to lose, because you are a loser.
A lot of anti-EU criticism, sad to say, is entirely valid. The EU has got problems. The EU’s problems have got problems. But (and this is just my opinion, based on a wishy-washy belief in humans working together as a species) it’s not going to get better by dismantling the union and going back to separate nations.
As I’ve said before, the EU is not perfect but it is a symbol of unity across a huge spectrum of cultures. There has never been a peace in Europe as lasting as the Pax Europaea that has accompanied the existence of the European Union. Not since Homo Sapiens arrived here and doinked the Neanderthals out of the gene pool.
Problems with the EU need to be solved by the EU and their member states. I’ve likened it in the past to a leaky boat. The solution is to patch up the holes – not to take a bunch of the best rowing muscle and bailing buckets, and strike out on your own. But humans gonna human.
And through all of this, can we please not lose sight of the fact that Nigel Farage is an utter, utter tit?
And again, just like the marriage equality survey in Australia, the Brexit vote came down to a Yes or No question and there was no room for nuance or debate. And nobody really tried. There was misinformation on both sides, and a lot of deeply damaging and polarising criticisms and failure to properly engage. I don’t know that it would have done any good to try – both sides really would have needed to express themselves honestly and compassionately, and if people could do that we probably wouldn’t get in these sorts of messes in the first place.
But anyway, that’s all done with. No amount of meanness or niceness is going to put that bunny back in the box. And this is where I get to talk about the racists who made up a majority of that fateful 51%. The racists who made Brexit happen.
See, the thing is, these days “racist” is synonymous with “white supremacist” in a great many cases. And yes, like I said, there were a few brown-hating Islamophobic douche-scones in the mix, since concern over open border policies and an influx of mouths to feed / potentially violent victims of war overlaps heavily with that kind of racist. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Yes, those embarrassing examples of humanity are around, and are increasingly convinced they have a right to exist by the global political climate, but no. They’re not under discussion here. They’ve already lost, and Britain absolutely doesn’t have millions and millions of them.
What Britain does have millions and millions of, though, is voting-age adult and elderly citizens who have been raised in a culture of not really liking the rest of Europe.
This is painfully obvious to anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of history. The history of Europe is the story of Britain Being In Fights. And no, not just Britain. Obviously Germany is the classic offender when it comes to the Big Ones. But Britain has fought with Ireland, the English have fought with the Scots, we’ve had round after round of Britain versus France, and on and on and on.
What this has done – and I know this because Australia is a great big huge sandy tiny little piece of Britain, and we have exactly the same racist attitudes – is instil in the population a deep series of grudges and a lot of distrust. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen otherwise sensible people claim that the EU is Germany’s next Reich-style attempt to take over the world, by micromanagement and legislation this time rather than by the sword. When the euro was introduced, I saw Brits who were firmly of the opinion that France and Ireland were only joining because Britain wasn’t. And I’m not saying that wasn’t the case for a lot of supporters. This racism isn’t unique to Britain. It’s entirely mutual.
 And so does the British Empire’s older child, by the way. An awful lot of USian anti-European sentiment – not to mention USian gung-ho war fetishism – is a relic of World War II.
I found these attitudes bafflingly immature then, and I’m still seeing them now – with even more clarity, because objecting to a currency was a bit abstract for a lot of people. I try not to judge, but of course I still do. The reason I try not to judge is because, like I say, I’m a product of British culture myself. I feel exactly the same instinctive response to the Frrrench, let alone ze Germanz. And I know it’s bullshit! I’ve heard it said that the first response you have to something, in your head, is the result of your upbringing and cultural context; while the thing you actually say or do in response to something is who you really are. I try to live by that and I know that the overwhelming majority of my British fellow-racists do the same.
But that little voice is still there, echoing from a billion billion drops of spilled ancestral blood.
British people don’t like the EU because it’s full of Europeans. And they don’t want to be part of it. They didn’t want to be part of it even when they were part of it, and now they finally have a chance to get out. It’s disappointing to me that they’re taking that chance, but is it surprising? No.
It may be triggering to call it racism. The term is so charged these days. Well, of course it is. And like I said at the outset, the premise of this post was clickbaity. Call it a “mild prejudice” if you like. Racism, like most elements of the human experience, is a spectrum.
At the innocuous end of that spectrum, we have good old British pride. Nothing wrong with liking the nation and the people to whom you belong. British folks are grand. It’s fine. Finding a bit of happiness in one’s cultural identity, even indulging in a bit of patriotism in the right place and time? Good on you.
Again, you don’t need much in the way of education to know that this spectrum continues through to nationalism, jingoism, and so on. This we know. You don’t need to be actively warlike to be racist, though. And what I see in almost every pro-Brexit case, every anti-EU argument – and yes, an awful lot of USian isolationism too – is a person saying “I know my country, I know my people, I’m reconciled with my past and my identity, and I don’t want other people to interfere with that. They have no right.”
And yelling at us about that isn’t going to ‘fix’ us. Calling people racist, the 21st Century equivalent of a leper or a witch, isn’t going to do anything but push them deeper into the groups that aren’t calling them names and making them feel bad about something over which they have very little control.
Yes, I know. 49% of the voting population didn’t succumb to that age-old mistrust. Surely that means the 51% can be fixed. Right?
No, I’m afraid not. Humans gonna human.
Nobody can fix us. There isn’t really anything to fix. This is not a bug, it’s a feature. We’re all a product of our upbringing and a result of centuries of history that we haven’t forgotten, and are not necessarily doomed to repeat … but may just be doomed to reboot.