Friday, June 24, 2016

From empire to isolation

Britain is on its way out of the EU.  It is going to be a mess, and definitely terrible for the Brits.  People are making much of the economic consequences of this result, but I think it is far more important as a bellwether of human attitudes than as an economic decision.  Yes, important financial institutions will move to continental Europe, away from London.  This is bad for Britain, but good for the rest of the EU.  Trade agreements will have to be negotiated, but that isn't necessarily bad or good.  Generally though while it is a terrible move for Britain, many of their losses will be other people's gains, economically speaking.

But as a measure of how people think the result is a disaster.  People didn't vote to leave because of a rational examination of the economic benefits or lack thereof of EU membership.  They voted because they are racist, and more than willing to blame all of their problems on other people, particularly other people that aren't white.  The Leave faction was based around arguments against immigration and which relied on nationalist sentiments that have no room for outsiders.  This wasn't about money, it was about hate.  Do you hate other people?  Racist to the core?  Vote to Leave, so we can put up a legal wall to keep those people out!

And the problem is that this set an example for other groups based around xenophobia and rabid nationalism and gave them the sense that they too should push for isolationist policies that demonize the other.  Other countries' nationalist parties have leaped to the opportunity, shouting that they too want a chance to throw caution to the wind in pursuit of divisive hatred.

Trump must be rubbing his hands with glee, noting the surge in people talking just like he does.  Most of them haven't pinned their hopes on one gigantic, pointless, physical wall, but the far right parties in many other countries have rhetoric just the same as his.  This shows just how far these people are willing to go to support their prejudices - they are willing to suffer greatly just to try to stick it to others.  Trump may be the most egregious example out there, but he is far from alone.

There is one ray of hope though, and that is the collapse of Britain.  I generally don't hope for groups to suffer even when they do make stupid decisions, but I think that this might actually be for the best in the long run.  If Northern Ireland and Scotland both secede from Britain and rejoin the EU, it will show people just how messy it can be when you do something like this.  If Britain suffers through dramatic economic turmoil, sees their currency go through disaster, and has no end of problems, other countries may hesitate to pull the same trigger.  It may be that Britain's disaster will show people how much of a problem it can be to desperately isolate yourself from the world, and that might prevent other nations from voting for the same sort of thing.

What I really want is for people in other countries to realize that actions like this come at a cost.  When their nationalist party leaders push for independence, isolation, and expulsion of immigrants, I want everyone to think of how Britain went straight down the toilet when they did that.  I want them to imagine the ruination that such actions bring.  Having that dramatic example might prevent much greater disruption down the road.  It was easy to lie to people in Britain about what would happen when they voted to Leave, but it will be much harder in other places if there is a concrete example of how bad it is when that happens.

I don't want Britons to suffer.  But I do think they will, and I hope it is immediate and obvious enough that it acts as a deterrent to other groups that will inevitably try the same thing.  There is nothing inherently right or righteous about being in the EU or any other political entity, so I don't have a horse in any of those races.  But I do hate the thought of countries making such decisions just because they hate people who look different and blame those people for all of their problems.

You fucked up real good Britain.  But hopefully the price you pay for your foolishness will help others.

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