Sunday, 4 September 2016

There’s strength in numbers

Brave New World (The Star)
6 July 2016

As a small nation state, Britain is finding out the hard way that the European Union sum is greater than its parts.


THE English defeat to Iceland and exit from the Euros raises an inte­resting parallel with the United Kingdom’s referendum held a few days earlier, where they chose to leave the European Union.
In both cases, the unthinkable happened. And it happened partly on the misguided, hubristic idea that England is a lot stronger than they actually are.
How could it be that Iceland, which has the population of Kajang, could beat the 1966 World Cup winners? Ah, and there lies the problem does it not?
That was 50 years ago and furthermore it was the one and only major trophy that the English football team has ever won. Yet somehow the Jules Rimet trophy held aloft in Wembley is seen to be some sort of the footballing equivalent of Excalibur, endowing the holder with a kingly right to victory.
The truth is a lot more sobering: English football had a moment of glory but that does not mean that it is a powerhouse.
The same can be said about the nation as a whole. What is the country without Europe?
The Commonwealth is little more than an excuse for men and women from various former colonies to draw large pay cheques in Marlbo­­rough House whilst speaking in the public school accents of their former masters. The Empire is long dead and since the Second World War, the UK is not anywhere near to being the superpower it once was.
And yet there are those who believe that they can stand alone. With perhaps a little help from their “special partner”, the Americans.
This is strange because those who are so averse to being bound by Brussels seem to be happy to be subservient to the United States. But then, when has logic come into this Brexit move?
Promises by the Leave campaign have been found to be hollow. The massive injection of cash into the Na­­tional Health System that was pro­­mised is now already being denied by those who made those promises.
The magic disappearing of Euro­­pean immigrants so despised by the electorate has proven to be merely wishful thinking. And the supposed strength of the British economy has also been shown to be a vain hope as the pound tumbles, the markets crash and investors already start looking elsewhere.
England by itself is little more than a small nation state. They have good things going for them of course, but compared to the juggernauts that are America and China, what are they?
Regional pacts are necessary for countries to ensure peace and economic survival. Just as Asean is necessary to give us small South-East Asian nations a bit more punch, so is the EU to the UK.
But all that is drowned out by populist promises that could never be kept and by appealing to the lowest common denominator, a racist and bigoted fear of the other as a trump card.
It is always so easy, isn’t it? When in doubt, find a scapegoat that looks and speaks differently from you, and say that they are the cause of all your problems.
This racist posturing and the eventual victory of the Leave campaign has opened a huge can of worms. Racist incidents in the UK have spiked and it is not aimed merely at the Eastern European communities but also other non-white communities as well.
And why not? In any country you will find the despicable and the ra­cists, but when they are legitimised by those who are the nation’s lea­ders, then they feel empowered to make their stand public by proudly displaying their bigoted mind-set through words and deeds.
And if I may make a slight detour here; this is why the statements made by the Mufti of Pahang and then the subsequent defending of those statements by Putrajaya is so dangerous and must be opposed.
The declaring of the legitimacy (at least from one man’s perspective of theology) of killing people who oppose a proposed law, can easily justify bigoted acts, which although they may not be as dramatic as bloodshed, will at least give rise to more discrimination and ethnic hatred in a country already toxic with such attitudes.
However, back to England. Why should I care about what happens six thousand miles away?
Well, partly it is because I am ra­­ther fond of that little island nation. It had its moments of wickedness but it also tried to ensure free health for all, a social security net and a sound education system; with an underlying belief in the ideals of the rule of law and civil liberties.
They were not perfect and one wonders if these ideals will still be around in the next 50 years, but the thing is, the experiment was at­­tempt­ed and there was an aspiration of a nation that had a capitalistic economy tempered by socialistic principles.
This aspiration is based on the idea that a community lives and grows together. The strong and the weak, the powerful and the powerless.
On a larger scale, was this not also the ideal of the European Union? But instead of a community of individual people, it is a community of nations. Growing and helping one another and by so doing, trying to ensure peace and econo­mic prosperity.
The EU has some serious pro­blems: it is criticised as being overly bureaucratic and corrupt. It needs to be fixed.
But by abandoning the experiment, Britain has given up on the post-World War dream of a world where cooperation is the way forward, and not self-interest. That is the greatest tragedy of Brexit; the death of a dream.

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