My reaction to the apparent decision to exit the European Union was surprise. Can this really be happening? Greece came to mind. They had a referendum and then the leadership of Syriza folded. I never understood why you would hold a referendum and get over 60% support and then say in effect we will accept the severest austerity terms. Then the Scots had a referendum on independence, and the majority wanted to stick with the English, especially those on the border lands. So I thought the same response would prevail with Brexit. Take, for example, the non-existent borders surround Gibraltar and between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
So what is going on? Mark Blyth, who is a Scot and Eastman, Professor of Political Economy at the Watson Institute for International Studies and Brown University explains what happened:
There is more background, especially on the Greek Crisis with Yanis Varoufakis. At the end he offers his answers to the EU crisis.
Next week the Australian Election might not be as dramatic. Nobody seems to be talking about the TPP, with perhaps the honourable exception of Nick Xenophon. Two aspects struck me about the Brexit vote. Firstly, it was ineptly called by a Prime Minister without a view to strategic outcomes but to deal with the immediate problems of disunity within the governing party. Neither Brexit or the Double Dissolution were necessary. This suggests to me that the people who are making the decisions are removed from the general population, and perhaps primarily related through opinion polls.
Secondly, despite the support of the two major parties, 52% of the voters voted to leave the EU. There was a Trump phenomena going on. I think there is more going on than meets the eye, and it is deeper than than it seems. I sense that it more than a economic crisis: it is a cultural crisis exacerbated by neoliberal economics and perhaps changes in the education system, as Mark Blyth alluded to above. We can listen to punters from Hartlepool, via the BBC:
Judith Hand on Facebook suggests that some voters were not as rational as they should be:
Any positive upside? What is the significance of the British vote to isolate themselves from the union that has kept the peace and created wealth in Europe since WWII? One should always look to learn. Well for one thing, my take is that the vote is like the canary in the mine…it’s a message. A warning to the developed countries that can save them if they are willing to heed it. It makes clear as can be the critical importance of a healthy middle class and a sense of fairness felt by all the members of a society. It’s a warning that if the developed countries don’t find a way to curb the excesses of unrestrained capitalism that are concentrating wealth into the hands of a few, stifling or killing their middle class, and also feeding the human id that hates unfairness, the result will be ugly. It will lead to an unravelling of all the progress we have built or potentially could build. Capitalism has the power to and has raised the standard of living around the globe. The greed of unrestrained capitalism can very well be our undoing. The vote outcome is also a warning that those who preach intolerance rather than compassion, selfishness rather than sharing, are feeding a tiger that they can’t control and that in the end will consume them.
To expand a little, the people the BBC interviewed are aware but not acutely perceiving the structural violence they have experienced all there lives. But why should that be? Perhaps the Roman legionnaires were objectified into highly organized fighting units. To quote Wikipedia:
The Cloude of Unknowyng is an anonymous work of Christian mysticism written in Middle English in the latter half of the 14th century.
Michael Nagler,on You Tube quotes from the text:
Beneath you and external to you lies the entire created universe. Yes even the sun, the moon and the stars. They are fixed above you, splendid in the firmament,yet they cannot compare to your exalted dignity as a human being.
There has been a change in the scientific paradigm since the fourteenth century, and Issac Newton influenced extended beyond science. There is still much to be learnt about the universe. And, of course, with the exception of people such as Geoffrey Chaucer, few could read in the fourteenth century, and remained so until the development of the coal-fired industrial age. However, who really believes that each individual person is precious and unique? This is closely related to the demonization of the other, including those supposedly the beneficiaries of the austerity and neoliberalism.
There are many Brexit commentaries, including the BBC live radio broadcast and by Julian Assange and assorted guests in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. According to the international think tank, Chatham House, “Brexit could actually harm UK climate and energy policy”.
And then there is Tom Dispatch.com on Facebook who suggests:
As Robert Mackey points out at the Intercept, the curious thing about the Brexit vote and the global panic that has followed is that it actually triggers nothing, not automatically anyway. It was, in reality, an “advisory” referendum. The triggering of the two-year negotiating period for leaving the EU will be up to a new government months from now. It’s a very strange situation.
Now the Federal Election will not cause these perturbations – when and if people become interested in it. The House of Reps will probably be left hanging with deals to stitch up a government and the Senate with the triumphant march of the minor parties hopefully ready to stymie the politics of austerity and science denial, which might also be put as “whither the Great Barrier Reef” (Of course there are multiple other ramifications).