The TFT on the EU referendum…

Military flags, Lichfield Cathedral

I thought it time to make some comments as we approach the referendum vote that may or may not lead to the UK sticking two fingers up at Johnny foreigner once again and once more fortifying the old white cliffs for the sake of good old Albion.

Here we go;

 

I do not like referendums

The Scottish in/out one was the same; it reduced great complexity down to a simple binary seductive question. We elect governments to govern. Referendums are the means by which governments abdicate responsibility. I hate the way they divide people, often along narrow sectarian grounds. I hate the fact that all sorts of things that really matter are obscured behind the fog they create.

 

Any question has two answers, any answer has a reply, any statistic has a contradiction

We learn nothing from the so called debate, apart from the futility of the debate itself. Therefore what drives our vote will almost certainly NOT be reasoned reflection after a careful examination of the facts. We will decide based on narrow totemic issues that arise from our own prejudices and associations.

 

Immigration is all about inequality, not border controls

Speaking of totemic issues, this one may well be the clincher in this referendum. On the one hand we hear that we need immigrants in the UK; they are by far a net contributor to our economy. On the other hand the fear and resentment that they create (aided and abetted by the politics of hate and by certain newspapers) means that this debate has nothing to do with economics. It is obvious to anyone however that what drives immigration is rampant inequality. Yes war and famine may create mass movements but the real engine is the fact that we in the west have far more than we need and do not want to share it with the poor south. Brexit ignores the issues and focuses instead on blaming the victim. It all makes me feel ill.

 

In or out, nothing that matters will change very much

The debate about national sovereignty and democracy makes much of the fact that here in this island we need to be in control of our own fate, our own destiny. But of course, we are NOT. Power is wielded by the powerful and this will not change. The poor will remain poor and those who are privileged will continue to pamper themselves at the expense of the rest. When we talk about leaving Europe in order to ‘make our own decisions’, I find myself wondering WHO will make our own decisions? At a time when political power is ever more concentrated in the hands of those who are from a tiny section of society. At a time too when even success in theatre, in comedy, in rock music is related to the wealth of your parents. The bourgeoisie control not just the means of production, but even the means of distraction.

 

The questions that matter are not being asked

In the wake of global recession, what have we learned? What has been our response? Who have been the winners and who have been the losers? What about the environment? What about enforced inequality? Are we simply retreating ever more into our little enclaves of security and adopting a ‘me-first-and-mine’ mentality, and the rest can just go hang? The EU debate is at best irrelevant to these questions, and at worst is distracting, destructive and confusing.

 

There is a crucial difference between Internationalism and Globalism

The real power in Europe is held by Globalised corporations, whose motivation is to maintain an unequal status quo in order to maximise profits. Much of the debate we hear about Europe is focused on whether British companies will be able to make more or less money in or out of the European union. Yet we all know that capital is global. Lest I sound naive, I know that the complexities of our economy can mean that small shifts in things like ‘confidence’ can result in company closures and redundancies, but let us not kid ourselves that globalised corporations care much for borders, no matter how elastic. The City of London will not be diminished, and yet in its shadow, we are all reduced to nothing more than consumer units.

Internationalism on the other hand is a political principle which advocates a greater political or economic cooperation among nations and peoples, and whose ideological roots can be traced to both socialism and liberalism. It grew in the wake of world wars and offered the prospect that we humans might aspire to something greater than just narrow self interest. Internationalism has known many failures throughout the cold war. It has been used to justify all sorts of political and economic expediencies (such as the Gulf war for example) but it remains an ideal that appeals to the best in us.

The EU has roots in both Globalisation and Internationalism. I am repelled by the former and remain hopeful about the latter.

 

Small is beautiful, but connectedness is strength

The UK is a small place full of smaller places. Scotland is a smaller place, full of even smaller places. If we are serious of democracy, we have to be able to make real decisions at a local level. But equally, we have to be able to look outwards and seek to share and co-operate. We have to see the benefits that come from fair trade and intellectual/cultural exchanges with the other. Both these things are worth striving for. Neither of them are gifted by staying in or coming out.

 

Beware who you share a platform with

There has been a lot of this recently; people united across the political spectrum because of their support for one side of the debate or the other. The process demands this. But if one thing above all will influence my vote it is the sight of Gove and Boris moon-facing me with another dire warning about European interference about the bentness of our bananas.

 

All institutions are flawed

European ones are, so are those in the UK. All are formed by compromise between the powers and interests that they seek to mitigate. Sometimes they carry the circumstances of their formation within their DNA longer than might be regarded as useful, and so all have to be subject to constant reform if they are to remain relevant. The bigger they are, the harder this reform is however and the further this is from the lives of real people.

 

WWJV? (What would Jesus vote?)

He would be too busy caring for the poor and broken. He would probably be looking after refugees.

 

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7 thoughts on “The TFT on the EU referendum…

  1. You even argue like a poet!!!
    This vote seems to be far too close for comfort. I know the EU is far from perfect and I fully agree with all you said about referendums. I wish there was far more focus on the dream of a continent at peace working together for prosperity through mutual respect and co-operation – because if Europe can achieve peace then so can the Middle East. If Europe can share prosperity then so can South America. If Europe can work together on a common goal then so can Africa. I love it when people come together. Perhaps the vision of the song is too small – let’s not rest till the Kingdom of God is built on Europe’s Green and Pleasant Lands – perhaps we get the chance to move a little closer on June 23rd.

  2. ” On the other hand the fear and resentment that they create (aided and abetted by the politics of hate and by certain newspapers) means that this debate has nothing to do with economics. It is obvious to anyone however that what drives immigration is rampant inequality. Yes war and famine may create mass movements but the real engine is the fact that we in the west have far more than we need and do not want to share it with the poor south. Brexit ignores the issues and focuses instead on blaming the victim. It all makes me feel ill.”

    “Internationalism on the other hand is a political principle which advocates a greater political or economic cooperation among nations and peoples, and whose ideological roots can be traced to both socialism and liberalism. It grew in the wake of world wars and offered the prospect that we humans might aspire to something greater than just narrow self interest. Internationalism has known many failures throughout the cold war. It has been used to justify all sorts of political and economic expediencies (such as the Gulf war for example) but it remains an ideal that appeals to the best in us.”

    You completely miss out the cultural and religious beliefs and practices that shape societies and determine how free and compassionate and prosperous they will be. In fact your writings reveal just how much of a ‘Westerner’ you are, because you are assuming that everyone will want what you want; and that is manifestly not the case.

    • Hi William

      I am slightly confused by your comment, which seems to be critical of my piece, but I am not sure exactly what you are criticising? Nevertheless, I will do my best to respond, as you took the time to read it (and quote from it.)

      Firstly, I am indeed a ‘Westerner’ and was not seeking to hide that fact. Of course not everyone will want what I want.

      The substantive critical response you made is that I miss out the effect of culture/religion that you say shapes societies and determines how free/compassionate and prosperous they will be. This kind of reveals that you too are a westerner, as most people in the South would have a rather different perspective on how compassionate our relationship to them has been in the colonial and post colonial eras, and also what our prosperity costs them.

      To suggest that we are rich because of the superior nature of our culture and religion is rather shocking. That is the kind of view that allows poverty and exploitation to be justified and thereby perpetuated.

      • Apologies for the delay.
        Really.
        Yes I am a Westerner, a child of Geordie heritage, who has lived abroad, travelled the world, and was brought up to respect people of all backgrounds.
        We are indeed richer, more resourceful and more tolerant because in the main these British Isles have been shaped by Christianity and classical Greek thought.
        (Protestant) Christianity in the British Isles helped us to evolve as a society, to establish the principle that an individual has value and deserves dignity because they are made in the image of God.
        Other faiths apart from Judaism don’t accept this. Islam provides no basis for this, only submission to the perceived will of Allah, and acceptance of what is.
        Religious beliefs shape the world view of their adherents. We can talk about God together, but are we discussing the same God, or our own version of God?

  3. Hi there- but we were not talking about God (whom we all make in our own image to some lesser or greater degree) but rather about religion, and your suggestion that Christianity= good societies full of compassion and other religions=bad. This totally ignores history over the last 2000 years and is about as western centric and blinkered by culture as it is possible to get. It allows those of us in the west to exist in a bubble of our own superiority which ignore the fact that most of the troubled regions of the world have their origins in exploitative and brutal colonialism waged in the name of Christianity

    • You said,

      “It is obvious to anyone however that what drives immigration is rampant inequality. Yes war and famine may create mass movements but the real engine is the fact that we in the west have far more than we need and do not want to share it with the poor south. Brexit ignores the issues and focuses instead on blaming the victim. It all makes me feel ill.”

      The West makes no attempt to help poorer countries or countries facing disaster?
      We don’t send people out to teach, to help, to build?

      “It allows those of us in the west to exist in a bubble of our own superiority which ignore the fact that most of the troubled regions of the world have their origins in exploitative and brutal colonialism waged in the name of Christianity.”

      You mean that no other peoples have made war on, exploited or enslaved their conquests?
      Human beings have been doing such things since time immemorial. I am extremely grateful to have been born in England. I recognise that our nation has done bad things, but we have also done good things, and I would far rather live in the West than anywhere else.

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