Trying to come to terms

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In a week where we have been left flabbergasted by selfishness on a huge scale, I finally got around to some unselfish sewing – making a man-garment. It was The Boy’s birthday and I’d promised myself (and him) that I’d finally step out of my comfort-zone of not-too-fitted woman’s clothes and make him something a bit bigger than a bow tie.

However, in the middle of the sewing process something momentous happened in the country of my birth that I found myself pressing with shaking hands and try to thread the sewing machine through a blur of tears. This is not a political blog and I try and keep my political leanings to one side here, so please excuse this slip and believe me when I say that this issue is of such importance to me that I can’t let pass without a short reflection:

Just over a week ago, many of my generation were left shocked and horrified at the thoughtlessness of an older generation who, despite having had the best that Britain had to offer – free university educations, low house prices, good pensions, early retirement – voted in their droves to deprive their children and grandchildren of the freedoms that a united Europe provide, that they themselves had taken full advantage of, such as the ability to work and holiday freely in other European countries such as Germany, France, Austria and Spain.

There are many that say that their leave vote was a protest vote, that they never really expected it to go through (and indeed we saw the leaders of the Leave campaign hurriedly retract their main promises barely 24 hours after the results came through). But I’m not sure if this excuses such a reckless gamble with the futures of younger generations when it was based on little more than nostalgia for Britain in a world that was vastly different to the one we now live in. An unwillingness to let go of a world that no longer exists and look to the future that could be built by current and future generations that still have so much to give.

As young adults we like to think that we’re independent from our parents and the adults that saw us through our formative years, and that we no longer need to look outside ourselves for the wisdom that life experience brings; but if the last week has taught me anything, it’s that I had felt secure in the knowledge that I could rely on the values and lessons that I learned from those adults: the people from whom I learned Christian values of love for others, generosity, unselfishness. Some of the very values that were lost in the bitter campaign of fear, hatred that they succumbed to.
That feeling of security has come crashing down around me; and as the country that I grew up loving seems to disappear under a swell of race-related hate crime and terrifying uncertainty I’m left in (thankfully) another country wondering if there’s anything left of what I left behind three and a bit years ago. It doesn’t feel like the country I grew up in. I don’t recognise it any more.

I saw an article in the Guardian today titled “Poll reveals young remain voters reduced to tears by Brexit result” and I wondered why anyone found this surprising. Quite aside from the loss of freedoms and rights for our futures that the EU had provided, the knowledge that the people you have always looked to for security were complicit in creating this world has been a terrible shock.
It’s taken me more than a week to bring myself to write this. For the first few days the horror of what my country had become kept crashing over me in waves, but it’s less raw now, and I’m able to be a bit more measured about it. I realise that it’s not the end of the world or even of the world as we know it. I don’t know what is going to happen (no-one does) but I know it won’t be Armageddon. I suspect that Britain will continue to be a country with more freedoms than many in this world, but it’s going to take me a while to get over the betrayal. Forgiveness will come, I hope, but it’s going to take some time.

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7 thoughts on “Trying to come to terms

  1. And as you said; older generation will not be the next ! I’m pretty sure that England, with all it’s peacefulness, will recover and be stronger tomorrow.

  2. Your eloquent words echoe my feelings. I did not think it could get worse but for me the ideal of democracy has died a slow painful death over the past week. I am emerging disillussioned hurt cynic. How can they enact a result based on lies – surely someone must be accountable in a democracy but no. Boris is off to his Islington soirees and Farage off to Murdoch tea parties with champagne and canapes. I am more measured but when my guard is down I get caught in huge whelm of fury at the injustice of it all. I still weep for my children. Its a sad time.

    1. We can only hope that in the cold light of day all shades of the political spectrum at last see the lies that our political leaders (on both sides) peddled, and that it might be a catalyst for the electorate demanding more accountability. Maybe we’ll finally see a greater political shake-up across the board than Farage announcing his annual retirement and Boris desperately backtracking and seeking a new route to regain popularity.

  3. I’m sure you express the feelings of many here.

    I find myself in a rather strange situation, on one side – I was an enthusiastic advocate of the EEC/EU particularly coming up to ’92, it truly seemed like the precursor to European peace and prosperity, I was prepared to forgive the EEC/member states their spineless inaction over the question of genocide in Yugoslavia and put it down to growing pains. I even thought the European constitution was essentially a good idea, but I was not prepared for the political deceit used to make the constitution a reality – the application of raw political power (across Europe) to force it on an unwilling electorate. This surely was the seed that grew into the Leave vote.

    What turned me away from the EU though was actually working in Europe, managing, hiring and firing people in Italy, France and Germany and dealing with the legalities that came with it. I came to realise that Britain, with its belief in fair play, the impartial rule of law, justice (as opposed to law), a common law tradition and also constituency based politics (rather than party list – politics to achieve policy vs politics to achieve politics) was fundamentally different (and possibly better) than a Europe with a party list model, where law is applied downward by the state and a sclerotic tax-guzzling bureaucracy acts as a brake on the individual.

    That for me is one side of the equation, now we have seen the other side, a Leave campaign that appealed to the basest of beastly xenophobic reactions, lied and misrepresented, that pretended to a gullible public that it was all upside, whereas any reasonable assessment would have shown that the risks are huge – and we are only now seeing some of them.

    I did my little bit over the years, highlighting the lying and stupidity of Ukip, but I believe that if there are two lessons to be learnt they are that:

    1. politicians need to get a spine, to lead not follow – rather than expressing sympathy over issues like immigration and pretending to be as far right as the Loony Right – no, the stupidities of a dumbed down electorate needs to be confronted, vigorously, the lies need to be opposed. Even now the blatant lie that leaving the EU and an “Australian Points Based System” is a “solution” to the intractable issue of international migration, is still trotted out for the addled masses to mutter to themselves mantra like, marveling in the cleverness of their leaders.

    2. it is a duty of the thinking electorate – particularly the youth – to be informed and active in politics, even if only in a small way, opposing those like the execrable Farage and his simulacra across Europe profiting (literally) from people too willing to think a) the “political class” is necessarily corrupt (well Farage certain was), b) there are simple solutions to complex problems, and c) it is all the fault of the foreigner.

    Thus I found myself in the remain camp, initially shocked but then unsurprised by the outcome, believing nevertheless that while there may be huge turmoil ahead in the short term, there are wiser heads that recognise that there is a UK-EU deal to be done which will preserve the economic benefits of the single market and crucially – free movement – which is of course a huge freedom not a problem.

    If the new Prime Minister can achieve this deal then she will be delivering a really positive legacy for our youth and the youth of Europe and short term woes can turn to medium term optimism.

    David

    1. Dare I hope that the bulk of the people who voted out did so for as good reasons as you outlined that you had against the EU? Well, no, I’m fairly sure that the vast majority voted out in pure self-interest. But I’m completely aware that there are those who voted out for very sound reasons. I’ve also laid the majority of the blame on your generation, but I’m aware, again that there were plenty in my generation who voted out, as well as plenty in yours who voted in (and I’m extremely thankful to be related to some of them!) I hope no-one took/takes it as an unreserved accusation of a whole generation.

  4. I suspect your daring to hope is misplaced, from my reading there are all sorts of reasons and only a minority from the point of view of reasoned principle. Anyway, a Happy Birthday dear niece!

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