This blog is called the Minimalist Travels for a reason. It’s supposed to be an observation of the world that surrounds me and be a witness to the beautiful and express it with minimalist prose. Yet, this morning it is the brutalist ugly that compels me to be a witness to.
As the tv, print and online media re-peddle night after day how they are rattled by the Brexit result few expected, I can’t shake off the feeling that we should have seen this one coming. Forces of economic nationalism and working class anger have been brewing ever since the last financial crisis and globalization and technological changes which sped up since meant millions of people saw their jobs marginalized and wages decline even further. I heard a Standard & Poor’s analyst say yesterday that this type of volatility is temporary and that things swing back to the norm. I think this time it is different.
Pound plunging to 30-year low, FTSE 100 diving 9% even before opening and Euro Stoxx almost double that (17%), yes, are temporary. Markets will find excuses to re-inflate itself and if it doesn’t soon enough central banks will make it so. Most successful leader of Tory of his generation, David Cameron who only a year ago won parliamentary mandate who gambled away 40+ years of EU integration and many centuries of Scottish union will also be forgotten and new leaders will emerge (in England’s case it may be an old, familiar one). But behind the market and political normalization will continue to be fundamental forces of resentment fostered by populist manipulators confusing our judgement and corrupting our temperament.
What happened to the UK is not just an existential challenge to and turning point for EU, it’s a clear and unmistakable warning that we too can make that mistake in our next referendum, election and, perhaps most importantly, daily choices we make in how we click on that article to yet another Trump shenanigan, give breathing space to populist platform and lash out at an immigrant competing for our jobs. We would be naive to think what 52% of UK voters did is the result of deep division only of that country and the final dagger in the heart to that political establishment. It was only one, albeit notable, circumstance in the continuum of populist fury and is neither one society’s phenomena nor final. It is a challenge to all of us who are reading this that, despite living and breathing little of the working class marginalization, these forces surround us and we ourselves must own immediate changes to rescue ourselves from making poor, lasting choices.
How many more times can we be merely rattled and look on with bewilderment at the outburst of deep seated anger and distrust in the dirty economic and political contract carved out in stone between the bankers who who moved to central banks and law makers who are funded by those very sponsors? This fury train started when the economic elites bankrupted themselves and law makers bails them out excusing them as too-big-to fail and has been on collision course ever since.
This time it should be different. There should be no more complacency in the lofty concepts of federation and long drawn out discussion on gradual reform insisting the vision of founding fathers of EU. Nor should we accept that the only logical response to corrupt establishment is dividing the country and wining by a small margin. Far-right exploitation of the angry and suspicious must be defeated immediately, every time it raises its ugly head. And that systematic fight can’t be expected by our political and economic leaders but must start with us. We must recognize that we are the intelligentsia who must be alert of that anger at privileged class, anxiety about a perceived loss of national sovereignty and resentment toward migrants that surround us. And it is us who must fight to win the argument each time and every time that being subject to the manipulation of populist opportunists is not the answer. Answer does not lie in the populist opportunists, much less Hillary, Sarkozy or Mark Carney. It is us who will be counted by our children of correct judgement and enlightened temperament.