Saturday, June 25, 2016

Preliminary Thoughts on Brexit


Brexit seems to be the world's biggest story at the moment. The British people have voted in a referendum to exit from the European Union, and in the immediate aftermath of this momentous decision, ripples of uncertainty and chaos are coursing through the economies and politics of many nations.

I've done some reading about what Brexit is and what it's likely to mean for the UK and the world, but I'd be the first to admit that I know very little of what there is to know about the whole thing. And it seems pretty clear to me that even those who know vastly more about it than I do don't begin to know for sure what's going to happen as a result of it.

Some on one far end are predicting enduring economic and political catastrophe. Some at the other far end are predicting economic and political nirvana for the UK and for other nations that extricate themselves from the centralized mismanagement and evil of globalization and open immigration.

As for me, I'm intellectually agnostic and taking a wait and see attitude about it. But emotionally I'm angry about Brexit, and I haven't been reticent to focus that anger on a Facebook friend of mine who voted for Brexit and is happy as hell that it passed.

I think what I'm so angry about is that I see the British vote as largely the result of a misguided populism fanned by power-hungry demagogues appealing to the deeply entrenched tribalism, racism, nativism, isolationism, and simplemindedness of large swaths of the population, much like Donald Trump is doing in this country, and I hate it, just hate it.

But then I think that, aside from momentary ill effects of Brexit on our own economy, I really don't have good reason to care all that much about what happens in the UK. It's their country and their decision to make, and I need to stop engaging in one of my most frustratingly ineffectual pastimes--trying to control what others think and do.

I admit that I do have concerns that what happened in the UK could presage a Donald Trump presidency. After all, just as pollsters here are predicting that Hillary Clinton will win November's election, I think pollsters in the UK were predicting that Brexit would not prevail there, and look what happened.

I read an article somewhere arguing that the two situations aren't equivalent because whereas Brexit is largely the result of activated racism on the part of many if not most of those who voted for it, Trump's largely racist message of blocking immigration and condemning radical Islam will not win enough hearts and minds of our much more racially and ethnically diverse electorate to get him elected. However, I'm not so sanguine about this.

But the bottom line, as I see it now, is that frustration, anger, and fear about what Brexit means for the UK, the world, and the USA won't help me or anyone else. So, it's time to bring my emotions in harmony with my intellect and go on about my business.

2 comments:

Thomas Armstrong said...

Probably because I am too inwardly America-thinking, I took scant notice of Brexit until the day of the vote.

I tend to think Brexit will end up having negligible effect on Britain or the world in a year's time. I am sure that Britain will quickly overcome any trade barriers. I just can't see that Britain will be left out of anything much. It's an island, so it has a physical travel barrier that can't be avoided like other Europe nations which can simply remove border security.

With all the exponential computer advancement everyone experiences, I think that passports and currency exchanges will become super-duper easy.

BUT, maybe I'm wrong and Brexit will become as much of a headache for the Brits as President Donald Trump is going to be for America for the next four to eight years.

Steve said...

You may well be reasonable and right in predicting a negligible long term impact of Brexit on the UK, whatever ends up remaining of it, and on the world. And if I'm honest with myself (and with you), I think I'd have to admit that my strongly adverse emotional reaction to it stems largely from my loathing of what I perceive to be the racist and tribalistic demagoguery manipulating many into voting to Leave the EU. In other words, I think they did the wrong (or right) thing for the wrong reasons, and that those wrong reasons are symptomatic of what motivates many arguably misguided decisions that we humans make. That is, we act out of simplemindedness, emotionality, racism, and other seriously flawed cognitive and affective processes whipped up by power-seeking narcissists and would-be tyrants.