I wrote this blog when in Granada, Andalusia a symbol of how differences produce beauty and how different communities – Jews, Christians and Muslims- lived together in peace, tolerance and respect. A much needed symbol for our times.
Following Brexit, and the implosion of UK Politics (excepting the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies) new leadership and new organisational forms are urgently needed both in the UK and in Europe. For the old ways are passing before us! The central point this blog makes is to identify the current Brexit crisis as a symptom of a much bigger problem. Brexit is not an isolated case of the UK becoming suddenly inward looking and xenophobic, it presents as a symptom of wider malaise which must be addressed.
The political elites of Europe, the USA and elsewhere are facing a paradigm change that is producing crisis after crisis, and which they consistently fail to recognise or address (protecting what they have). Its’ in the same league as climate denial. Mainstream media and political commentators present the current situation in the UK using what psychoanalysis identifies as splitting. They clamour to present the EU as an imaginary ‘good object’ and any opposition to it as a ‘bad object’. Splitting is a psychological process whereby we psychically split off hated parts of ourselves and project them into external others. Therefore the ‘bad other’ holds all the evil, hatred and pain, and we are left feeling ‘good’. Clearly racism is based on this analysis where the immigrant ‘other’ is identified as ‘bad’ and the idealised ‘us’ identified as good. Yet the same process is happening in the liberal and progressive left, when they demonise all leave voters as racists- either explicitly or implicitly- and comfort themselves as being morally superior. This process however doesn’t allow a mature analysis. If the problem was an aberrant inward looking UK, then taking this seriously the EU should be celebrating now that (self-inflicted) surgery has removed this ‘UK tumour’. Yet this is not the case…. the real anxiety now in the EU is of where the next tumour will appear… France? Greece? Spain? Portugal? Poland? They know that the tumour is not the cancer, but they use the psychic defence of denial to turn-a-blind-eye to this reality; for to seek a cure for the cancer, means they must address radical change that has far reaching consequences. Brexit is one symptom of many being played out throughout Europe and the USA (Podemos, Syriza, Front-National, Polish and Hungarian nationalism, Trump and Sanders in the USA etc). This is not simply a Brit problem.
I pray that leaving the European Union will offer an opportunity to forge new political and social alliances across Europe, which are not underpinned by the viscous neo-liberal politics that have dominated the EU in recent years leading to a) stealing the democratic rights of so many millions in Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland etc and b) imposed austerity measures that have been so punitive and inhuman particularly on the vulnerable and young.
Now is the time to build new solidarity and new community structures both locally and internationally, in Europe and beyond it. Now is the time to devolve power to cities and regions in the UK and across Europe. This will increase democracy, recognize regions as the hub of our democracies and undo some of the damaging nationalist rhetoric and top-down governance that alienates so many in the UK/Europe. Size does matter. Some say this is fragmenting but they are working within the wrong paradigm, holding onto the 20th century ideals of political elites controlling from the centre (Brussels, London etc). It is only fragmenting if it happens in a destructive way and the centre fights it. If it is planned and supported it works…. how can more democracy, trusting more people who are closer to the issues they face be wrong? The key to success in Europe is connectivity, collaboration, devolution of power and resources and co-operative politics. Decentralisation and distributing leadership are key to this success. Global corporations are clamouring to find ways to distribute leadership knowing that their businesses will fail if they don’t manage this task. For without leadership at the edge how can they know what customers desire in this fast changing world? For unless they unleash talent throughout their organisations, how can they expect to compete in a global economy? If global corporations are trying to achieve this, why are not our public/political bodies…. success depends on harnessing the talents of all, of trusting people to take leadership, followership and responsibility. Top-down hierarchy isn’t working anymore in this fast changing networked, globalised, digital society.
Now is the time to forge new political and social settlements, for the old ways are passing. The EU and our local, national and international political systems are not fit for purpose, and rather than grieve what is lost we need to grasp the opportunity this ‘so-called’ crisis provides us. I say ‘so-called’ because don’t forget the real crisis is in Syria and other warzones and millions of displaced and fleeing refugee’s. Worrying about stocks and shares is in a different league to having to choose to put your family in a leaking boat, risking life of your children with no idea of what the future holds.
I was never that fond of the EU. I lent towards the remain campaign only because I didn’t want the ‘little Englander’ anti-immigration politics to win out. But lets make no mistake the EU was a neo-liberal project, the social Europe many of us aspired to was captured by free-market capitalism and enshrined this into it’s constitution. It didn’t begin like that, but it became that…. if in any doubt, just go to Athens and check out how much say they have over their economy and social budgets and how they suffer because of this. And let us not forget the wall around Europe. The liberal left quickly condemn Trump’s idea of a wall protecting the USA, but what about Fortress Europe that excludes it’s neighbours from trade and other benefits on its boundaries. This creates tensions in the north African countries to the south which are now suffering so badly from economic collapse and war and also those to the East. We can easily blame terrorism or dictatorships for the challenges they face, but what part did the EU play in excluding these troubled lands from its wealth?
The EU was not all it was cracked up to be and nor did it adapt and change when it desperately needed to after the financial crisis and economic collapse after 2008. It had a choice, to support the suffering people or support the banks and make the people suffer more…..we saw it’s disgraceful response and we see the consequences now.
The Brexit vote took place and what is done is done. Now is the time to work together to show solidarity with the poor, to the immigrant and to the vulnerable. To support and help mobilize the young whose instincts were more collaborative than their elders. Now is the time to build new creative communities, to strive to support small and medium business success and to tax the thieving multinationals and reduce their influence. Now is the time to silence nationalism and hatred, not by protests but by building together a new political and social settlement, by offering something much better for all. Now is the time to grasp a new future, a more generous future that addresses the new demands of our network society. Now is the time ……