By Doug Porter
Millions of words will be written over the coming weeks about the vote in Great Britain to leave the European Union, popularly know as Brexit. I’ll point to a few commentaries striking me as important as I surveyed the news this morning.
The immediate reaction in the Western media has been predictions of doom and gloom, backed by reports of stock prices declining. Nationalists worldwide are celebrating, as if a symbolic wall ala Trump has been erected. Nativists and xenophobes are thrilled that their messages about the “other” have resonated with the English electorate.
The truth of the matter is much more complicated. Attempts to put a left/right spin on the circumstances leading up to the vote fail to portray the many moving parts in play. However, the political parallels between the forces favoring disengagement and the rise of Donald Trump cannot be ignored in the context of the upcoming general elections.
Why the Vote?
Short version… Conservative leader David Cameron made a deal with the nationalist elements in his party, who have been against Great Britain being too involved with Europe for decades.
From the Financial Times:
But Mr Cameron, backed by William Hague, the former foreign secretary, concluded that the only way to hold the party together through the 2015 general election campaign was to promise an EU referendum.
The setting for that fateful decision: a pizza restaurant at Chicago O’Hare airport, where Mr Cameron met with Mr Hague and Ed Llewellyn, his trusted chief of staff and an old-hand in Brussels.
There were many factions in British politics who supported the “Leave” campaign.
From the introduction to the ‘who’s who’ guide in the Guardian:
The question of Britain’s membership of the European Union has been tearing the Conservative party apart for decades. So it’s no huge surprise that the jockeying to become the main campaign group to leave the EU resembles – to outsiders, at least – the squabbling between the various People’s Fronts of Judea in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. So here’s a handy guide* to the groups (and some key figures) keen for a future in which the only impact of Brussels on British life is in its sprouts.
*until they schism again next week…
Preferring Walls to Bridges
British-born financial journalist Felix Salmon, writing at Fusion, was clearly distressed:
The result is that we are now entering a world in retreat from progress, a world of atavistic nationalisms and mutual distrust, a world in which we demonize foreigners and prefer walls to bridges.
In November, the U.S. will have its own plebiscite, and will likely vote along similar lines to Britain. The cities, and the young, will vote for progress, inclusion, and unity. Meanwhile, the white, rural areas and the old will vote for a sepia-tinged dream of a past in which equality was something only straight white men really qualified for.
Before the Brexit vote, I didn’t believe it could happen here. But Britain is significantly more cosmopolitan than America, and we managed to shoot ourselves (and all of Europe) straight through the heart.
So, be afraid. The arc of the moral universe might bend towards justice, but it gets there in a very, very messy way. And after taking many steps forward, the world has now taken a giant step back.
It’s simplistic to cast the Brexit vote as a Nativist reaction to immigration, as Dawn Foster at The Nation points out:
Many of the areas that voted to leave the EU actually have low migrant populations, but share a sharp rise in poverty over the past decade. After the recession, the UK economy has precariously recovered, but recovery is geographically tilted toward London. In the capital, house prices have risen massively, and wages are far beyond the average seen elsewhere in the country. Outside of London, jobs have been lost, wages depressed and public services cut massively. Since 2010, the Conservatives’ austerity measures have slashed funding for the NHS, welfare spending and budgets for social and public services: the keener the deprivation in an area, the higher the cuts, proportionally. So the poorest have borne the brunt of austerity, and had little left to lose. Warnings that the UK faced economic ruin if they voted to leave, borne out by sterling’s collapse to its lowest point since 1985 today, had little effect on communities that already feel excluded from the reported growth in other parts of the EU. …
… In a country racked by inequality, fear is easy to capitalize on. But as well as being afraid, people feel disenfranchised—and they are. Both Labour and the Conservatives have for decades withdrawn into themselves, creating a political class that is drawn predominantly from a homogeneous and elite tranche of society, wealthy and socially removed from the constituents they represent. Many politicians attended the same university, Oxford, and even studied the same course—Politics, Philosophy and Economics. The media are much the same. It’s easy then to believe the establishment is a stitch-up designed to perpetuate inequality and keep an eye out only for themselves.
Restoring the Noble Empire
David Dayen, writing at the American Prospect, points to economic inequality coming out of the world recession in the aughts.
If the economy had returned to something resembling normalcy, why was the Leave campaign able to scapegoat immigrants and onerous EU regulations and win a majority?
First of all there has been an undercurrent of bolting the EU in Britain for over forty years, since the joining of the European Common Market in 1973. While places like Greece were culturally tied to the EU despite being pummeled by it, the UK always harbored dreams of breaking free and restoring their noble empire.
But you must pair that with the arrogance of the elites, both in London and Brussels, to the growing desperation in the countryside. The technocratic administration of policy in the EU is obtuse to the average Briton or Italian or Frenchman. They viewed democracy the way most people view mosquito bites, as a nuisance rather than a collective voice worth listening to. Euroskepticism grew amid this neglect. For all the talk of burdensome migration, Leave did best in rural communities with few, if any, immigrants. These are the cities and towns that lost out from globalization, where deindustrialization has wiped them out and left them flat. Anger at economic stagnation played as much of a role in Brexit as anger at faceless foreigners allegedly ruining British society.
The Remain campaign tried to tamp down this anger with lectures, talking down to the rubes in the backwoods and explaining how they didn’t know what was good for them.This has been pre-eminent rhetorical technique among globalization enthusiasts for decades: that they would fix everything if the public would only listen. What they have fixed is a transition of wealth into financial centers and corporate coffers, and a denuding of societal character in favor of a global monoculture.
What Leave offers, a toxic stew of isolation and racism, isn’t any good either. But when elites spend this long doing nothing for large swathes of the population, they’re willing to listen to anyone with a different idea.
At the Root, Globalization
The notion that exiting the European Union will return Great Britain to independence and prosperity is as ridiculous as thinking that building a wall will solve the United States’ immigration and economic problems.
Here’s Richard Eskow, writing at Campaign for America’s Future:
The “Leave” vote was a rejection of globalization, at least as it’s currently structured. This was a revolt of working class Britons who have seen their postwar prosperity erode around them and their social contract eviscerated by the corporate and financial oligarchy.
But it was also the sign of a darker and more sinister worldwide phenomenon: the resurgence of global nativism and xenophobia. This worldwide turn toward fear of the Other is globalization’s shadow self.
For better or worse, globalization has happened. Those lost jobs aren’t coming back.
However, the notion that society must be dictated to by economic interests (i.e., NeoLiberalism) accompanying this realignment of the world does not have to remain in place. The answers are in plain sight, obstructed by constructs designed to blame people who have nothing to do with the problems.
George Monbiot wrote about this in the Guardian:
So pervasive has neoliberalism become that we seldom even recognise it as an ideology. We appear to accept the proposition that this utopian, millenarian faith describes a neutral force; a kind of biological law, like Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the philosophy arose as a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus of power.
Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.
Bernie Sanders’ stump speech about the greed of the corporate ruling class may seem simplistic to some, but the reason it resonated with millions of U.S. voters stems from the same sort of frustration shown by Britain’s voters. The “Establishment” in the US risks a similar result if the very real economic and political needs of millions of people are not addressed in realistic terms.
HOW AGES VOTED
18-24: 75% Remain
25-49: 56% Remain
50-64: 44% Remain
65+: 39% Remain#EUref
— Ben Riley-Smith (@benrileysmith) June 23, 2016
Now You See It…
Oh, and by the way. One of the biggest “sells” for Great Britain leaving the European Union was the promise of a huge increase in funding for health care.
And the first thing that happened after the election results were in… …was breaking that promise.
From the Telegraph:
Nigel Farage has admitted that it was a “mistake” to promise that £350million a week would be spent on the NHS if the UK backed a Brexit vote.
Speaking just an hour after the Leave vote was confirmed the Ukip leader said the money could not be guaranteed and claimed he would never have made the promise in the first place…
His comments came as Dan Hannan, a Brexit-supporting Conservative MEP, suggested that Leave campaigners did not promise to “pull up the drawbridge” and warned that migration to the UK will continue despite the vote.
Weekly Progressive Calendar: Upcoming in San Diego
SlapJazzDanny & Friends at The GO!
The Toronto Globe and Mail wrote of SlapJazzDanny:
“Hambone was developed by American slaves as a way of making music when they weren’t allowed to use musical instruments. San Diego’s SlapJazzDanny is among the greatest hambone artists in the world. He literally converts his body into a drum set.”
Inspired by ‘E’! What is ‘E’ you might ask… Oh that is Encouragement! We all need it and it makes life worthwhile. Danny loves to share his art as a performer, and he feels it is his duty to ”give back” out of what has been given to him. You can see SlapJazzDanny in performance at:http://slapjazzdanny.blogspot.com/p/y…
Joining Danny for this very special evening at The GO will be two other masters:
Leland “Spoonful” Collins: Master Spoons! He brings the heat! You will never look at your kitchen spoons the same way again! https://www.facebook.com/leland.s.col….
Jimmy Patton: Award Winning Guitarist! Claimed the title of Best Unsigned Guitarist in the Nation! https://www.facebook.com/Jimmy-Patton…
2016 Work-a-thon for Peace & Social Justice
Saturday, June 25, 9am
2612 Daniel Ave
Info & Updates
A day of community service for peace and social justice.
There are TWO WAYS YOU CAN HELP!!
Be a Volunteer or Sponsor.
Register online (for either) – now! at the “ticket” link above or here:
World Refugee Day Celebration 2016
Saturday, June 25, 1-4pm
City Heights/Weingart Library and Performance Annex
3795 Fairmount Ave
Info & Updates
Each year on June 20th, designated as World Refugee Day by the United Nations, the world honors the strength and perseverence of refugees.
On Saturday June 25th, join us to celebrate the diversity and strength that refugees bring to our local community at the 2016 San Diego World Refugee Day Celebration!
A fun, FREE family-friendly community event at the beautiful Wiengart Library Performance Annex in City Heights featuring:
– Cultural Performances
– Activities for Kids
– Community Resources & Information
Junco Canche – Comedy & Live Painting
Saturday, June 25, 7pm
2113 Logan Ave #4
Info & Updates
Come to Mesheeka and enjoy a night of Junco Canche while he paints live and also does a generous set of his own style of chicano comedy !!!
Documentary Screening of ‘Trapped’
Monday, June 27, 6:30pm
First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego
4190 Front Street, San Diego
Info & Updates
Hosted by the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego and the San Diego Coalition for Reproductive Justic
“Riveting, powerful and timely as hell!” – Flavorwire
Since 2010, 288 laws regulating abortion providers have been passed by state legislatures.
As the U.S. Supreme Court decides in 2016 whether individual states may essentially outlaw abortion (Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt), Trapped follows clinic workers and lawyers who are on the front lines of the battle to keep abortion safe and legal for millions of American women.
Please bring your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors – everyone – as this is a fight that affects everyBODY! Beverages and desserts will be served. FREE event!
Trailer and more info: www.trappeddocumentary.com
There is a major need for patient escort volunteers at the Mira Mesa health center from 7:30 – 12:30pm on Saturdays. Protestors ruthlessly go right up to the patient’s car window, and it gets worse from there. For more information on how to volunteer please check out:https://www.facebook.com/prochoicevolunteersandiego
Pride World Forum: A Glimpse at LGBT Diplomacy
Wednesday, June 29, 5:30pm
3909 Center Street
Info & Updates
Join us for a forum convening LGBT movement leaders from around the world!
6 members of the contingent will participate in a panel discussion where community members will have the opportunity to ask them about their work and human rights issues around the globe. The panel will include select visitors from the listed countries below.
5:30 pm Doors Open
6:00 pm Panel Presentation
7:00 pm Mix and Mingle
Delegates in attendance from:
Cabo Verde – Democratic Republic of the Congo – Cote d’Ivoire – Ghana – Guyana – Haiti – India – Italy – Kazakhstan – Mexico – Mozambique – Nepal – Nigeria – Palestinian Territories – Poland – Republic of Korea – Rwanda – Slovakia – South Africa – Taiwan – United Republic of Tanzania – Turkey – Uganda
Event is co-sponsored by the San Diego Diplomacy Council, San Diego Pride, San Diego LGBT Community Center and the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). For more information, please contact Natalie Maroun at the San Diego Diplomacy Council at 619-291-8105.
This event will be directly followed by the UCSD hospital lighting ceremony at 7:30 pm.
FYI : THIS EVENT WILL BE ASL INTERPRETED AND WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE. Any disability-related accommodation requests can be sent to email@example.com.
Get your event listed: I try to list the next 10 days or so of mostly non-commercial events I think our readers might find of interest. I source my material from social media listings and press releases. In cases where there are competing but similar events or campaigns of the progressive persuasion, I do my best to list everything.
Unfortunately, my subscription to the psychic hotline has lapsed so if you don’t tell me or Facebook, etc., about your event it won’t get listed. See my email address at the end of this column.
On This Day: 1896 – Booker T. Washington became the first African American to receive an honorary MA degree from Howard University. 1968 – “Resurrection City,” a shantytown constructed as part of the Poor People’s March on Washington D.C., was closed down by authorities. 1997 – The U.S. Air Force released a report titled “The Roswell Report, Case Closed” that dismissed the claims that an alien spacecraft had crashed in Roswell, NM, in 1947.
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