Monday, June 27, 2016

Fall apart or fall together

The people in my life know very well that I...tend to rant. Most of the time when I'm online or in public, I tone it down to avoid conflict. If I see injustice, I'll speak out (I try not to when it's trolls because that's what they want), but the rest of the time, I sit here at my computer, so outraged I'm lost for words.

But there are some...complete and utter d***heads in this world, and sometimes, I just want to shake them warmly by the throat.

So, here's a bit of what I think about the UK and the EU. I'll go on the record here as having voted to remain in the EU. Note: this is what I think. It's opinion, and I'm not writing it here for people to tell me why I'm wrong. I'm not.

My reasons are many, but here are some of the more salient ones, in brief:

1. Democracy

If the problem we (the UK, not the bunch of crooks with too much money and power who led the electorate to a poisoned, though thankfully empty chalice) have with the EU is in its organising principles and the costs associated with membership, then it would be better if we stayed seated at the table and contributed to a debate that might lead to reform rather than up-ending our half-finished (very expensive?) dinner and stomping from the room.

There's little else to add here. We will have no say in future decisions that will affect us whether we're in the EU or not. We are, essentially, giving up our (flimsy, limited but hard-fought-for) democratic rights.

2. Immigration

The UK is a population made up of immigrants, and we have to go back a very long way to find the original Britons. So, on any basis, the immigration argument is historically flawed. Add to this the imperial history of Great Britain whereby the British 'colonised' (raped, pillaged) the world...do we really want to remind anyone outside of the UK of our darker moments?

Then there's the disgusting comments being made by a very vocal but thankfully small minority that do little more than highlight their stupidity. However, it's a dangerous stupidity. Before I go any further, I'll be very clear on this. I have NO TIME OR PATIENCE for bigots. I believe in equality and hearing/seeing any form of discrimination (which is nowhere near a strong enough word) makes me have murderous thoughts. Luckily, I'm something of a hermit.

So, let's see. We have European directives and domestic legislation in place that a) allow for free movement of workers around Europe, b) set maximum working hours, and c) guarantee a minimum wage.

On the latter two, we all have the right to accept longer working hours or lower pay. For as long as we have capitalism and all of the selfish gluttony that goes with it, there will always be employers who either can't afford to pay their workers well or are greedy exploiters and will do all they can to wrangle their way out of treating their workers fairly.

What we have seen in the UK since the free movement of labour is that often, those low-paid jobs are taken by people from eastern and southern European countries. They're not 'stealing our jobs' - they're doing jobs that no UK citizen will take (usually because we can't afford to). These workers are contributing to the UK economy, their own country's economy and they're paying for themselves. They are not a 'drain on the state' because they don't use our welfare state, such as there's any of it left to use.

Assuming the free movement of labour ends with the UK's exit from the EU (which it probably won't), what's going to happen? We're governed by a right-wing party that has already stripped down the welfare system. The Cabinet is made up almost entirely of the elite who have no concept of poverty, nor that the majority of the population they serve are living a hand-to-mouth existence. With no requirement to abide by working directives or pay a minimum wage and no 'immigrants' to take up the jobs, who's going to do them?

I'd wager that many of the hate-spitting ignoramuses who have reared their ugly heads over the past couple of days are, in fact, part of the demographic most likely to end up being forced to take those jobs.

How wonderfully ironic.

Only a quarter of the UK's migrant workers are from the EU, which is where the other anti-immigration argument kicks in: we will get back control of our borders. Yes, that will be the borders with Europe that the members of the EU won't have to police for immigrants making their way to the UK. There is also the matter of Ireland - too complex and speculative to consider here.

Actually, I don't give a damn about immigration. Which leads me to the final reason I voted for the UK to remain in the EU.

3. Localism

It is typical of the arrogance of UK culture - a culture where the majority of people speak only English and get offended when we visit other countries and happen to come up against (on rare occasions) someone who doesn't understand English - to believe we are 'bigger' than Europe. The EU does not run roughshod over its member states, all of which maintain sovereignty. If it's too bureaucratic, too slow, too expensive, too controlling, see point one. We need reform (or revolution).

What we fail to remember in all of this posturing, this out-spilling of hatred, this over-exaggeration of the effects of leaving or staying, is that, in the end we are all human beings and we share this planet.  We're on a tiny rock floating in space, and we're stuck on it together. We talk about how the air quality has improved locally while we systematically destroy the Earth, depleting its resources, allowing money to override sense. We revere organic produce and demand 'humane' treatment of animals we breed to kill and eat whilst elsewhere people are dying of starvation. We worry about the chemicals leaking from the plastic into our bottled water when there are millions who do not have access to safe, clean water and heaps of junk in the middle of our oceans that are changing the ecosystem forever. If we break this planet, we're all buggered. Borders won't matter. Differences won't matter. They don't matter now.

I'm out of words, so I'm going to finish with Carl Sagan, a voice of reason in all this madness.

Earth from 4 billion miles away, taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft
(NASA, 1990, public domain)

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot....
There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space 

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