Ah, Europe.. I used to be rather pro our membership. It’s not that I’ve become anti- – more somewhere between cautious and suspicious – but the global events since the financial crises, the efforts of our Dear Leaders and the rapid unfolding of deeper agenda tell me that we are still not even asking the right questions, let alone accommodating the myriad potentialities within the global context. Nothing happens in isolation. One thing always leads to another. No change occurs in a vacuum.
I’m somewhat bemused by the utopian/dystopian visions of oversimplifying thinkers. People who believe we don’t need a government; people who think there should be a one-world government; those who think there shouldn’t be; people who think we don’t need to be in the EU; people who think we do; people who think we are entitled to an elevated status by virtue of historical might; people who think the US is our big buddy; people who think truly fair trade deals are easily struck; that any man can be an island and prosper…
In an ‘ideal’ world, none of this guff would even be on my radar. My ideal world is borderless (not to be confused with personal boundaries), egalitarian, reciprocal in respect, tolerance, honour – that noble stuff of dreams – and, if it exists at all as a reality, then it probably does so some thousand(s) of years in the future.
The ideas of self-governance through no governance, as some wish for, or a one-world government, are interesting, perhaps predictable concepts, particularly in our climate and, on a long enough timeline, both have a measure of inevitability about them. But not now. Who needs or wants someone else’s idea of utopia – it’s just another word for some well-intentioned fascism if it’s not universally supported.
Absent a central administration, self-governance requires a whole lot more evolution in human consciousness: we are just not evolved, sophisticated or even civilised enough for that kind of libertarian outcome. I tend to roll my eyes and sigh when I come across its advocates for it depends far too much on our individual abilities to balance freedom with responsibility. Can seven billion souls-and-rising truly exercise free will and not be feudal without the boundaries that the rule of law and some organised management provide for? (in principle, at least) How many even know what they’d do with that kind of free will beyond some self-gratifying superficiality or exercise in cultish preaching? This is not appropriate nor sustainable as a socio-politically engineered shift. It is more suited to organic process because it requires the kind of critical mass which belongs more to the realms of the spiritual/collective consciousness, if you will.
Though a one-world government is arguably a practical direction, who, in their right mind, would wish to put their faith in the neoliberal, technocratic utopians who would put such a system in place? This is another example of a process which should only come into being by consequence of organic shifts in the hearts and minds of the actual People and yet we hear and read of the NWO concept (as in designed) with increasing regularity, by both those who advocate it and by conspiracy theorists. Corporate governance, anyone? Yes, I know: it’s beginning to look like that already but let’s not let them, the powers that currently be, make it official. Not this bunch of selfish, shortsighted, narcissistic, quick-fix gluttons who are content to do little more than do us all over.
Other random, obscure theoretical solutions aside (there are a lot of fantasists out there), what are we currently left with? Either the interdependency of national/regional membership in a collective like the EU, or aspirational independence through self-sufficiency as so many regions of the world are currently in the process of attempting. I’m not opposed on any ideological grounds to regional self-determination/sovereign independence. I see and feel its attraction. I just think the only way I’d seriously entertain the idea of ‘going it alone’ as a country – really, really going it alone – enough to vote for it – is if I truly thought there was no alternative for preserving well-being or if most every other country in the world were to do it, too. Albeit that we see an increase in pro-secessionists, I don’t see all the world’s parts, en mass, deliberately choosing a potentially self ghettoising course. Economically, environmentally, it seems too late in the day to be possible, like not being able to unknow something. And, human nature being what it is – tribal and egotistical but communal and cooperative – I think that ain’t gonna happen except by way of catastrophic natural force, a mahoosive war or alien arrival. In fact, such events would merely strengthen certain groups and produce new ones.
The world has not escaped its feudal tradition and that means, whether I approve or not, that there is definitely strength in numbers. The planet is divided along all sorts of lines: cultural, geographical, democratic, economic, religious etc. This has given us, whether or not we agree with or like them, blocs of interest. We have the US, the EU, NATO, AU, BRICS, The G-numbers, ASEAN, UNASUR, MENA.. we have the IMF, the UN, American hegemony, China rising, corporate monopolies, environmental challenges, just to name a few… How – how does any one country, alone, stand viable, safe, sustainable and respected; how does it ensure fair treatment, given the conditions of greed, conflict, paranoia and tenuous resources under which 99.whatever % live? How do we guarantee that with any genuinely justifiable confidence beyond citing a couple of now-stereotyped examples that only seem freer. I can’t base my future on the-grass-is-greener say-so of ideologues.
I don’t like the prefabricated choices being forced on us. I don’t want to leave the EU and fall as small prey to the right-wing corporate, pseudo-national swivellists or even to its relative moderates. I don’t want to vote on staying in based on negotiations of that neoliberal mindset nor that of the puppet Cameron, who tries, pathetically, to temper it. Neither do I like the bullying pro-EU technocrats who have undermined and continue to undermine the best and highest aims behind the idea of Europe. I don’t want to be part of their preyed-upon collective. To me, the blindly ardent Ins and the vitriolic Outs are just as bad as each other.
I find that most of Farage’s reasons to leave are disingenuous and offensive: I like the Social Chapter, thanks and his notion of sovereignty is just a joke, considering he is a modern establishment, Corporate Man to his bones. I think, too, that Clegg’s reasons to stay in are blinded by a twisted Pollyanna-esque sycophancy for technocratic exploitation. I can, though, buy into the reform-from-within argument. We are not the only European population thinking about the nature of the EU’s remit but that requires no immediate referendum. There’s nothing to stop us running away later if we can’t make it work but it seems silly not to even try making it something we want to remain part of – from the inside. Rather, the trying chooses to suspend doubt and throw itself into theoretical support and practical negotiation. That kind of confidence and strength is not beyond us, surely? All we need is the presence of clear information and honest brokerage. Yes: there’s the rub, I know. All this said: what the hell good use is a referendum now or ever if it’s to be based on Cameron’s effort? Reform may mean stripping back some power, making its leaders more democratically accountable, diluting or eradicating some goals, reshaping expectations to what is desirable and achievable, etc, etc. It will still require a vote – eventually. I do know that the status quo is not the solution but I also know that we shouldn’t rush to control an outcome because of how things look or appear to look right now. Not when everything is in a state of flux, not just the EU component of our lives.
We are a small world, irrevocably intertwined and we are all, every one of us, as individuals and groups, dancing on a shifting carpet. We can either keep flailing around in our paranoia, resentment, uncertainty and projected fear – as the world has been doing on some level or other since before records began – or we can step up and into ourselves; find our centre of gravity, strengthen our core and trust ourselves to sound judgement based on reconciling the minutiae with a whole-view context. Let us at least try to travel with wisdom and integrity in that direction. Let us please vote, if/when it becomes necessary, with confidence, at the right time and for the right reasons.
I don’t think I mind so much what the outcome is so long as it’s informed, consensual, ethical and sustainable. Are we cowards, filled with a sense of inadequacy or arrogant reactionary fools? It is surely both, that we have so little faith in ourselves, the world and our fellow global travellers that we would lurch like an overweighted pendulum to the next extreme? Did we actually manage to build the world so dreadfully, irretrievably bad that our first responses are fear and panic? Then more fool us but it ain’t like there’s another one. The only viable escape is death.
Life is paradox. Simple and complex. Our problems and their solutions are simultaneously black and white and graded grey. Our future requires big and small picture, short- and long-term thinking, appreciation for both nuance and straightforward simplicity – looking through only one end of those polarised lenses can never be adequate for long, as the past and present prove.
What rather breaks my heart is that maybe our country (and every other) wouldn’t need or feel the need for a bigger voice if we stopped biting off more than we can chew; if we stopped treating everything as though it had to be a competition; if we stopped feeding our own wallet and ego by exploiting those of others. If we concentrated on making the best of our own natural resources and talents and respecting those of others. If we stopped seeing everyone and every place else as a threat, perhaps we would notice that we are actually, by far, our own worst enemy.