Monday, August 1, 2016

Something Thoughtful

Nicholas Reid reflects in essay form on general matters and ideas related to literature, history, popular culture and the arts, or just life in general. You are free to agree or disagree with him.  


I’m scared.

I admit it.

I’m scared.

Not for Britain, you understand, but for New Zealand, Australia and Canada.

I know I should snap out of this habit of providing you with political commentaries. After all, I’m no learned professor of political science. But there I was about a month ago lecturing you on America’sHindenburg-Hitler Election, the forthcoming United States presidential election, and now here I am reacting to the Brexit.

I am writing this the day after a (slim) majority of voters in the United Kingdom chose to leave the EU. You are reading this a month later.

I am keeping a clear head. I am ignoring the mutual imprecations and puerilities that are going on between the Exit and the Remain supporters on Facebook and elsewhere. I am busily urging everyone to watch, on Youtube, "Brexit - Legally and Constitutionally What Now?" - a sane and rational talk by Professor Mark Eliot of the Faculty of Law at the University of Cambridge. In a totally non-partisan way, he spells out exactly what position Britain is now in with regard to international law and [though he does not say this] his talk makes it clear that those who voted for Brexit may not really understand what they have just bought.

But I respect the democratic process – as David Cameron said he did. I accept that, having won the referendum, those who supported the Brexit can now reasonably expect to get what they wanted. I note – not without amusement – that a substantial majority of Scots, and of the Northern Irish, voted to stay in the EU and this clearly has serious implications for the United Kingdom and for possible future Scottish independence. I note too that London voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, which says something about that city’s great cultural diversity now.

Even so, the vote has been cast so there it is.

But this is where the fear comes in.

Whatever declared motives people had for supporting the Brexit, it is clear that much of the Brexit camp did play to xenophobia, hostility towards immigrants and refugees, and the daydream that somehow Britain could recover its old status as a Great Power. Before the Brexit vote, Brexit leaders spoke of the burden of EU regulations and freeing up the British economy. After the Brexit vote, the likes of Nigel Farange were a lot more forthcoming about their anti-foreigner stance. For me, to see on the same platform, and both arguing for the Brexit, the right-wing Farange and the radical left-wing George Galloway was to sense that there was something radically wrong with the Brexit case. It is clear that the Brexit is approved by Vladimir Putin (what could please him more in his own imperial plans than the disunity of Western Europe?). It is clear also that it is approved by Donald Trump, who has already used the outcome of the referendum as fuel for rhetoric about people standing up to “elites”. There is enough here to fear for Britain.

But what of my declared fear for New Zealand, Australia and Canada?

It is this. With Britain no longer in the EU, there will probably be a big push by Britain for closer British trading tries with the “old” Commonwealth. Many of the Farange mob have already suggested that they want increase trade with this “old” Commonwealth and are clearly under the impression that they can resume where they left off forty years ago.

I doubt if Canada (culturally partnered more closely with the USA than with Britain) will be much affected by this. But I have the awful image of more British immigrants, more royalist flag-waving and more retrogression to a dependent British status, wiping out much of our developing national independence of spirit.

I hope that New Zealanders do not choose to be part of such a movement. I hope that a return to an Anglocentric culture is either resisted or not initiated in the first place.

But there now. Perhaps the Brexit rhetoric is getting to me. Perhaps none of this will come to pass. Still, it’s a worry. Especially when New Zealand’s prime minister talks of initiating new trade deals with Britain.

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