A Brexit Day message
To my European Friends: I just wanted to tell you that, although my country has made the insane, childish and probably suicidal decision to leave Europe, I remain proud to be a European, and proud of the great social experiment that the EU represents. In my mind, I’m still in Europe, and that is where I will stay. For England it’s all over now, and the next generations will judge the results.
But I’m writing because I want to tell you what happened to England. There were all the systemic ingredients you probably know about – a corrupt and deceitful press owned by a handful of very rich people; an absurd and carefully nurtured illusion about England’s Imperial past; a media establishment that thrives on attention and clicks and therefore amplifies the political chances of entertainers like Trump and Johnson; a social media ecosystem which drives polarisation rather than compromise, and a series of undistinguished leaders who apparently understood nothing of any of these systemic issues.
But there was something else too, and this is the point of this letter: those of us who call ourselves liberals or socialists or democrats weren’t paying attention. Most of us didn’t notice that for working people conditions were becoming bleaker every year. And we didn’t notice that the gutter press was relentlessly directing the blame for those conditions towards the victims – the immigrants, the poor, the social workers, the teachers, the foreigners…and most of all, the EU. We didn’t notice because for us life wasn’t too bad – we all had our iPhones and apps and Amazon accounts and cheap flights to seasides and other ways of wasting our time. Meanwhile there was a revolution going on.
We didn’t recognise the revolution because we always thought it was us who were supposed to be the revolutionaries. The revolution happened, and we were sitting on our backsides watching Netflix. I’m pretty confident that your countries too will soon face Exit campaigns – if they haven’t already. The EU is an easy target for any ambitious politician: Want to become a big name in politics? Identify a problem, blame it on the EU, and then ride the Nationalist horse with all the help the media can (and inevitably will) give you.
Please, my friends in Europe – don’t make the stupid mistakes we made. Don’t just laugh at people like Trump and Johnson and all the others, because soon they will eat you. If we want a unified Europe to survive, we need to be defending it now. Talking about it. Thinking about it. Making it better. Making it work.
Best of luck to you all and hope to see you again in a generation or two