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I've Never Felt More British - For Better or Worse

24/06/2016 15:38 | Updated 24 June 2016

I've never really felt all that "British". Sure, I was born here, raised here, schooled here and worked here, but I never outwardly expressed any feelings of how Britain has affected me and I have affected it.

My parents were born deeply working class in a deeply affected area (Hull) not only by the second world war, but the shifting sands beneath the industrial heartland that was the north-east. My parents moved to London for work and as such gave me a life that was completely different to that of my relatives who stayed in Hull.

While the UK has been battered by the harsh economic winds that have erased heavy industry, communities, the identities of many regions and the huge hole in masculinity in today's labour lite work place, London, and me, have remained largely unaffected by all this.

My parents achieved social mobility and became middle class, and being in the south-east plugged their children into a world that greeted them with open arms. We could work and study almost anywhere of our choosing. We were exposed to people, cultures, languages, norms and values that at first seemed completely alien from our own. But overtime they become part of the furniture of living in a truly global city.

When the downturn happened I didn't see that many people sorely affected by this. My parents had owned property in an age where owning a house was the key to a better future, so they were fine - and London continued to pump out jobs, gentrify new neighbourhoods, and make it easier to eat, drink and be merry anytime, any place.

I remember even in the darkest hours of recession how busy pubs, clubs and restaurants were. It seemed like we'd been protected, thanks in part to the thousands of people who flocked to the city be they foreign or not, looking for something better.

As a result, I've always felt I was a Londoner first and a European citizen second. My experience looked completely different to those who lived outside the rich south.

But today that changed. Today my future has now been lashed together with that of everyone else in the UK. I now share a fate with those who government funding abandoned, who didn't have the privilege that I had, or the access to the wider world, or the experience of knowing and learning from people who came from different parts of the planet.

It's like being forced onto a lifeboat with a bunch of people you don't know, and don't particularly trust, but of whom you now rely on for your survival. That ship we left, let's call it Europe, wasn't sinking.

Sure, the seas were heavy and everyone was feeling a bit seasick, but the ship was still there, and still plodding on to its destination - in this case, a more united, prosperous future.

But this lifeboat doesn't have a great big engine and a compass. This lifeboat is built to keep people alive. It is now drifting, where to no-one knows. It could end up somewhere amazing, or somewhere absolutely fucking awful.

But in this lifeboat that we're now calling home, we're going to have to learn to trust and listen to each other. Last night I was angry, seething at the people who choose to leave. But my ire was squarely directed at the people who convinced the leavers that the future will be so much better.

I came from a family of fisherman, labourers, tradesman and general blue collar employment. I know their lives have been pretty shit since 2008. I know they don't feel like the government has done enough to help them. I know they feel abandoned by both Westminster and the rest of the world.

And I know how seductive an idea it is to cast your vote and change the future. Surely there has to be a better way, or a different way forward than the way we've been going now? Possibly, yes.

But because we voted for the big unknown, the big what if, that future is now more out of our control than ever before.

It is in the hands of the very people we wanted to wrest control from: banks, bankers, investors, politicians, the global elite, both home and abroad. They are now the ones who decide whether we sink or swim, whether he head towards a brighter future or a return to our sluggish, insular past. And they're now too fighting for survival and will act in a way to ensure they remain at all costs.

We've not only cut off our nose to spite our face, we've cut off a few limbs too. So we're all now going to have to learn to live as a legless stump. We have done it before, and we can do it again.

Britain was completely bankrupt in the late 1940s and early 1950s. But what came out of that was a more unified country with a greater sense of togetherness. Out of darkness came light.

We're going to all have to get used the idea that our friends, family and loved ones all might have wildly differing views on how we get there and why we're in the mess we're in.

It's going to be a trying few years, heck a generation. But there is hope here. If the country can come together to support a mostly shit football team, we can come together for each other and hopefully build something better out of the ashes.

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