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Brexit for Dummies

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Friday, 24 June 2016

There seems to be genuine surprise regarding the result of the referendum in the UK. But what surprises me is to hear people ask “how could this happen.” Obviously, they haven't been paying much attention to what has been happening in the European South for the past six years. Labeling the southerners lazy and corrupt was relatively painless, but justifying the British vote doesn't come as easy.

The prevailing tendency is to blame everything on immigration and the subsequent rise of the far right. It is strange to attribute such characteristics to the oldest modern democracy in the world. It is also strange to attribute them to the most consciously multicultural society in Europe. Besides, no official source makes the effort to tie the result to a euroscepticism that seems to have been there forever, with the UK traditionally feeling closer to the US than to the Continent.

Of course, the rise of the far right is a fact, and partly due to the discontent arising from immigration policies, but this is just about half the problem. Once more, an issue seemingly stemming outside Europe – that is immigration – becomes the scapegoat for Europe's troubles. The underlying cause for the rise of the far right and the Brexit  without the two being so closely related as some would like us to think is presented as the result of complications in an external crisis that the Union couldn’t handle sufficiently, due to lacking mechanisms, and not as the result of political decisions dictated by the very mechanisms of the Union.

I would love to tell you that anyone who has witnessed the devastation of the South in the past years would be able to give an easy answer about the other half of the problem. Unfortunately, this is not the case, as many prefer to hide their heads in the bubble created by their rapidly diminishing financial security. Because, the other half of the problem is the impoverishment of the people, an issue that most Europeans who today appear shocked have chosen to neglect.

Poverty was so striking at certain places in the UK back in 2008, as was the gap between the rich and the poor and the growing difficulty of the middle class to keep its head above water, that I returned to Athens feeling I was coming to a prosperous land. I can imagine that things have only got worse in the eight years between then and now, as they got worse for all peoples in the Union, who turned against each other with alarming ease. And perhaps the Union isn’t the one to blame for Britain’s circumstances – since, after all, Britain didn’t share the common currency and its flaws – as perhaps it isn’t fully to blame for the situation in Greece or elsewhere. However, the European Union, as the money-centered organization that it is, did fail at what the European People need the most in order to trust and support a system: It didn’t provide a social floor. Not only that, but it did try vehemently to monetize the existing social infrastructure.

The impoverished masses will do anything to escape their designated fate, but what the system didn’t predict – because such is the alienation of the governing core from the people –  is that desolation would be so widespread and deep that propaganda wouldn’t work – as it didn’t work in Greece either. Indeed, the British were ruthlessly bombarded by their media, spreading fear in case of Brexit and promoting Bremain as the learned choice, and the polls favored Bremain. The difference is that the EU leaders now seem genuinely stunned, as the UK isn’t at their beck and call, like Greece, and the result of the referendum will have to be respected.

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Sunday, 18 September 2016 17:19
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