Thursday, June 30, 2016
The Social Consequences of Brexit
If Marx missed the mark with the Proletariat achieving a deep political consciousness, he was prescient about how history happens: First as a tragedy, then as a farce!
So, the recent history of Britain, recent as in the space of an week, is this spectacle in fast forward. Since an overall, though slender, majority voted to force the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, the political news has become sexy again. It would have been comical if the consequences were not so far reaching: Declaration of UK's independence (as John Oliver rightly puts it - the United Kingdom was an independent country before last week, and in fact lots of countries celebrate their independence from IT!), sudden volte face about taking the real legal step to start the process of leaving EU on both sides of the divide, the abnadoned promises as soon as the vote count is over and all the accompanying political fatricide, we have now seen it all.
But, apart from all the fast-developing stories, some long- and medium- term trends are shaping up in the wake of Brexit. They are less than exciting, and therefore, out of spotlight. But they are going to change our lives more profoundly than who really becomes the next Prime Minister.
So, here, which I hope is the last time I write about this subject, are top three currents set in motion since last week.
'De-Globalisation' Is A Word!
Today morning, I heard Nandan Nilkeni, an Indian billionaire who made his billions from globalisation, use the word. When I caught up with him to ask if he believed Brexit had set this in motion, he said he had been using the expression for a while. He believed it was real, and arose out of the recessions of 2008. However, after Brexit, this is a generally accepted idea, if I go by the reaction of those present in the session.
Xenophobia Is Cool Again
The morning after Brexit, various pundits appeared on rado and TV to appeal to calm and express anger at the elite who looked down upon Leave voters, because 'there was a real concern about immigration'. Obviously, this reasoning was heard, reported hate crimes went up by 54% and the 'genuine' concern about immigration, which was really a Tory Front Bench thing, became the main political conversation.
Seen this way, Brexit is a democratic mandate for the dislike of the others. Be it the Poles who came to this country after the de-industrialisation that followed the collapse of the East European bloc, the Indians who came to work in NHS or Technology firms, or the Afghans, the Syrians and the Libyans who came after the humanitarian bombing of their homeland by the British and the Americans, it is okay to claim the privilege of being protected from the nasty world outside, while still maintaining our ability to lecture other people how to run their affairs and ocassionally intervening to change if they had a 'wrong' democratic mandate - the cool xenophobia is here!
Political Parties Are Being 'Deconstructed'
The French philosophers may have tried to explain deconstruction, but we now see it an action: A root-and-branch change of how political parties behaved. The Tory government, after the biggest political own-goal in the modern history, has busied themselves disowning it. The Prime Minister quietly swallowed his pride and abnegated his promise of an Article 50 Friday, passing on the poisoned chalice to an as yet unnamed successor; the key Leave campaigners disowned all the statements they made before the vote; and now, as Michael Gove, a prominent Leave campaigner, puts his name forward to be the Prime Minister, he said he would be in no hurry and would invoke Article 50 'when it is the right time for Britain'. Well, we thought that was last week!
In the meantime, of course, the Labour MPs, wanting to be like the Tories, had a 'no confidence' motion in their leader! Labour leaders are elected by members and trade unions, and not the MPs, a moot point the current generation of leaders, self-absorbed and disconnected, want to totally ignore. The timing is perverse - the only reason to do it now is because they see an oppotunity in the generally unsettled mood in the country - as nothing really has changed with Corbyn's leadership.
We are entering a brave new world. No, the Sterling has not fallen off the cliff, and the Stock Market did not tank. The economic armaggedon seems to have been averted. If anything, it has become cheaper for the Government to borrow, and the interest rates are set to fall, and not rise as predicted. But, somehow, all this is not good news, but rather preparation for something more terrible. It is like being told - "congratulations! you are now on life support" - as all this means a downbeat economic outlook and worsening of the prospects. Schumpeter thought Keynes was cavalier about long term ("in the long run, we are all dead") because he did not have children. For us who care, a bleak economic prospect in a nasty country with opportunistic leaders, is not the future we voted for.
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How To Live
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Theodore Roosevelt
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
- T S Eliot
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