Fear of the abstract, something we don’t fully understand, a concept bigger than ourselves.
The idea of change, of complexity and unavoidable forced complicity can be a strong and a worrying idea; something that is not easy to come to terms with.
The strong feeling that someone else knows something you don’t, comprehends something you don’t and benefits from a particular institution that you don’t.
These are all overriding and all-encompassing feelings that we all have to deal with at some point. The perceived loss of control and the frustrating insistence to play by the rules are both something we have all wrestled with, regardless of who you may be, where you are from and how insignificant it may seem to others. I understand that when talking about the EU that others understandably have one, more or maybe all of these feelings, it is something so big, so complex that it is intellectually unapproachable. As with most things it can never be simplified into a sentence or a few statements or even an essay; this is the difficulty of this issue and the fear faced by all of us deciding.
I do not often use social media, or my platform as a musician to discuss political matters, however I felt this time and with this particular choice it compelled me to do so. This time we (the general public) are not being asked to make a judgement on a person to take decisions on our behalf, but rather to make the actual decision ourselves. This is one that includes the need for an understanding of macroeconomics as a whole, implications on stock markets, the jobs markets and trade. Although I feel I have a rudimentary understanding of this, it however remains an area of extreme difficulty for me. Funnily enough I am feeling the effect here in the States already, our investments here are diminishing due to a weakened market anticipating a potential exit and things are already more expensive for me as I am using my UK savings and a weaker pound means things are more expensive. I think I understand the fiscal implications of leaving and staying in and in some cases they are already showing, although I cannot be 100% sure and it is with that I will leave the economic argument, however if anyone feels they would like to discuss I am always willing to talk.
Politics has become more open in the last 50 years, although it may not seem it. The flooding of facts and figures into the public domain has been helpful and yet unhelpful. Dealing with semantics in broad public view helps for a new and transparent politics, whilst at the same time turning the wider public off. The means to interpret this jargon are there and we live in an unprecedented time, however it does take nerve and the patience.
I move on to a less complicated view of the European Union (my own), however one I stress I have built up over many years. The social arguments already seem tired and that dead horse has been flogged many times, so I will try to articulate how I feel in a slightly different context.
I will start by saying that I have never seen the EU as something that sucks the life out of democracy, neither have I seen it as a vehicle to drain sovereignty from individual countries. I am also fortunate enough to be an immigrant myself and do something that most people will not have the experience of doing.
Statistics never tell the whole story, they can never depict individual like struggles by refugees, or language barriers faced by inhabitants of a new land. As an immigrant in the USA, I am respectful of the country here. I am getting on well but in my heart I won’t ever be fully ‘American’. This is something reserved for citizens born or at least growing up in a country; it is a feeling that is alien to a lot of people, but not to immigrants and will always leave one feeling slightly out of place. It is an internal feeling and something that cannot be expressed in a number or statistic. Whilst having a deep love for the United States, it also means that I will always be very respectful of citizens and others here, an unspoken outside’rs courtesy and it does indeed mean that people seem to reciprocate the good will, but not in all cases. This manifests itself on a personal level, however the abstraction of a wider migrant picture can sometimes lead citizens of the country to feel differently. I can assure you that an immigrant living in the UK (EU or non-EU) will feel a sense of disconnect. Moving abroad is not a snap decision, it is either driven by necessity or their residency is the end of a long and hard process of preparing and willing yourself to make the journey. It is a tough and brave step.
The pressure on immigration reform is undoubtedly very strong; this cannot and will not be ignored, and is already at the heart of the debate (rightly or wrongly). If the right questions are asked then balancing the relative insecurity with a reasonable and sensible solution can certainly be reached. Understanding that this is an issue felt by many multilaterally indeed sounds the alarm for a global solution and therefore recognition of that will further lead to the progress sought by so many. There are of course some that will always have the proverbial chip on their shoulder, allowing nothing to satisfy them, regardless of the resolution (in or out). There are also the eternal optimists, a mindset I am often guilty of myself. I believe the resolution to most things lies somewhere in-between. A progressive skepticism leading to reasoned and workable achievements, whilst maintaining the integrity of institution(s) that, without question, do many good things.
It is not a secret that war is the blight of the human race, the inbuilt hatred of some and in many cases willingness to submit to the mob mentality that drove so much of our ancestors to battle. Although, as many know, I have a sometimes blind faith in human nature, I also believe that in many cases people are unable to suppress and control the urge as a belligerent. The argument of political semantics in reference to the EU, although frustrating, is a useful global tool. It is easier for people to be frustrated at something that can’t fight back rather than something that can i.e. a nation (or several). Venting frustration is one thing, however doing it on a global scale with the very real possibility of a sparring partner is not abstract, neither an idea to be taken lightly. The UN, EU, NATO and the like are ALL parts of a learning curve, one that does not have a very exciting impact on the world, but do indeed have roles as a preventative one; the vaccines neutralising global frustrations and aggressive debate that otherwise would have potentially harmful consequences for all peoples of those nations. They take the sting out of tired and frustrated national interactions, ones that could go sour quickly if not for a political union in place, our interconnected nature means what impacts one impacts all. This is not a benefit to be taken lightly or to assume that if these mechanisms weren’t in place peace would happen anyway.
To many, the word globalisation means nothing, maybe an invisible spider’s web linking an unstable banking system (or something of the sort). Now the debate has opened up about the EU I believe that this marks a turning point. The public have not only become enthused, but have laid the way for a time of intellectual awakening, paving the way to a more accountable and user friendly version of globalisation, or for at least a slower and more accessible version of it.
Politicians are more accountable than ever, it is remarkable to see; however this must not lead to a hamstrung political class, unable to take decisions in the interests of their electorate. Unpopularity is not always a bad thing, it leads to even more transparency and a reminder to politicians that they have to serve in the interests of all. This being said, gutting the system, allowing for institutions to be hollowed out and dissolved without first a chance to evolve should not be the consequence. Progress should be the result of this transparency, not the sullying of the political vehicles that are put in place to benefit people.
Many wouldn’t be able to describe the nuances of left and right. With this lack of understanding the centre left and centre right are under increasing pressure to be ‘less boring’. This is very dangerous, and aggression to the point of causing progressive diminution of the centre is in no way the best method for forcing change. If you take away anything at all from this, take away this next point. The new norm of centrist governments is the epitome of the lessons learnt from a 20th century rife with war, the bland consequence of human struggle. These governments at the heart of the EU cannot sustain excessive derision without wider extreme political consequences, however unsavory or dull they may be.
Trying to take the unselfish view of things is always the hardest, but history tells us it is by far the most beneficial. You do not have to be religious to believe that good will and a kind hand extended on a personal and a national level is a good thing and most welcome to the people receiving it. The Eastern Bloc; so many people cut off for so long, not allowed to share or participate in a changing world. The EU allowed for integration and a new beginning for countries that had been left behind, yet again certainly no abstract concept. This is one that the younger generation in the western European countries have little knowledge of, but I can tell feel the historical significance of. The people of these countries should not be punished for the tyranny of their forefathers, and they should not cease to feel the benefits of integration now the the job has been ‘perceived' to be done. This goes for all European countries, ones with struggles long since fought and ones with ongoing difficulties. The example that we set as a nation is a huge one as many countries are moving to the right, meaning that more populist and radical governments will be given an opportunity to use our so called ’Brexit’ as a bargaining chip with the EU, potentially diminishing well established rights and opening up a back door to policies driven by anger, egged on by people with no regard for safety and stability of other nations i.e you and I.
These are just a small portion of my feelings and I could articulate many more, but this copy would be ten times the size and even less fun than it is already. I am always willing to talk to any friends that wish to converse with me about the issues. Leaving the EU is a very real fear for me and I hope desperately that we stay in. In the event that we do wake up on the 24th and have left, I hope that the public will be wise enough to ask the right questions, and prepare financially and socially. This is a momentous question and one that will be textbook material 50-100 years from now. Whatever the effects, may patience and understanding help to make Britain a kinder & stronger nation.