Britain woke up less great and more little this morning. Having fallen asleep just minutes before the leave campaign's victory was announced, I was woken up by my housemate Himesh thundering down the stairs to share the news. I went into horror/panic mode and placed myself infront of the TV which I watched wide-eyed, until I saw Cameron announce his resignation. I then rang my boyfriend, and parents, posted an obligatory inflammatory status on Facebook, and cried for quite a while.
Britain making the decision to leave the European Union is the singlemost important event that I have ever witnessed at such an offensively close range. As the daughter of a trade unionist mother, and a very decent father to boot, I've marched my socks off in just about every major protest that this country has seen in recent years, opposing the Iraq war back in 2002/3, and the unjust hiking of student fees in 2010. I've done plenty of stomping and shouting, but sadly to little avail. As I sobbed with my friend Sophie outside Parliament that rainy November evening in 2010, the only solace that we were able to cling to was that there was a disconnect between the views of the 'normal' people, and the politicians. Tony Blair and the likes chose to destroy Iraq, not me, and not my fellow countrymen. David Cameron and his Etonian cronies decided to raise the fees and make education a privilege and not a right, not me, not in my name. But on this occasion, I can't say that.
This time the final choice was put into the hands of the British public, no-one else, and somehow that makes processing the outcome all the more agonising.
I'm conscious of oversimplifying here, but I saw this as a referendum in which Britain was presented with two options; progression or regression. I believe that the result was that the leave campaign frightened people into voting with their hearts and not with reason. 52% of the voting electorate bought into the largely baseless propaganda that in my eyes would seem laughable if it did not genuinely sow seeds of racism and hate. The European Union certainly had its flaws, and needed reform, but I strongly believe that in being a part of that union Britain saw many benefits which could simply not have come from within.
I'm British, but I'll be honest and say that whilst I'm the first to whip out the Pimms with lemonade, I've always felt a bit awkward being a Brit. Take me out and shoot me but I'm going to say that I reckon inside many Brits is a scared little racist, itching to have its say. Say what you will, a large percentage of the population is simply not very welcoming of economic migrants/refugees/people with different skills/colours/orientations/facial hair, and I don't think this is a new phenomenon. We masquerade around as people of the world, but really, we mostly accept 'difference' on our own terms, if at all. We all love a British cuppa, but do we know the history behind it? Most people probably don't even know that the tea leaves are from India.
How does this relate to the EU? Speaking from the position of a British national, I feel that accepting gay men and women showing affection in public is a 'European thing'. As is being served by a Trans cashier. Equal pay, and the ability to question gender inequality feels like a 'European thing' too. Much of the social progress that this country has experienced since I have been around has felt like it stemmed from the continent, and not from this tiddly island. By detaching ourselves from this unity we have severed a chord that bound us to be forced into 'progressing', whether we liked it or not.
I strongly agree that every person should have the right to vote, but whilst I am a strong advocate of democratic principles, I believe that this EU referendum was unfair. By definition it was a democratic custom, but in reality it didn't cut the mustard. Many voters were subject to the displacement of their reason by fear. Politics has become a playground game, consumed with bickering, with no side fairly representing the truth. Throughout the build up to the referendum the remain campaign's performance was lacklustre and uninspiring, offering the humdrum 'everything will stay the same' line, to a discontented public. By contrast the leave campaign, although full of bullshit, was dynamic and punchy, and very, very loud. To Joe Blogs, unhappy with so much in this country, disenfranchised politically, and peed off at the EU, the leave campaign promising any sort of positive change, must have seemed glamourous.
I was always far more proud to be called a European than British. I wish I could keep the title. I can only hope that the standards that the European Union has held us to, don't start slipping. As for further 'progress' for this country, socially and economically, I am disheartened. However I do cling to hope of some sort. In the aftermath of an outcome that has left me and so many others distraught and humiliated, I'm reminding myself that it is important to have a measured response.
I personally believe that fear and lack of information led millions of hands to pick up a pen and cross that 'leave' box on the ballot paper yesterday. Let's try not to breed more negative sentiment than already exists. Right now we may not be proud to be British, but let's take a deep breath and stay strong, in the knowledge that we share our disappointment with 14 million others across Britain today.
At times like this when failure is tough to handle, I remind myself of the following words:
'If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster,
And treat those two impostors just the same;
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it.'- Rudyard Kipling.
Right now in the midst of defeat, let's hold on to our values, keep pushing for what we believe in, and be hopeful for the future. Oh and although it's somewhat unrelated, let's try to keep that nutter Donald Trump as far away from f*****g power as we can. We can do this!
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