We Are Family – or not? A song on Brexit

Should I stay or should I go? That’s the question Britain is asking itself tomorrow – also Scotland, naturally, as a part of the union. Starting this wee comment with a song, I’d go on with more music in order to discuss the referendum’s spirit: Is the European Union a gain or a wreck?

Actually I’m a bit astonished that Great Britain from all countries in Europe asks this question. As it was so Happy Together two years ago when Scotland said I Want to Break Free. Well, 45 percent of Scotland anyway and too little therefore, so, as we all know, Bonnie Scotland stayed part of the union. The same union that doubts the advantages of its big brother Europe now. Och aye.

So what are these advantages actually? Let’s have a look at two very trivial examples. Do you have children? Do they love to play with their Barbie Girl? Cute blonde (too thin and too busty, in my honest opinion) dolls Barbie style and their athletic beach boys (WTF are those kids playing with them btw?) could be a threat to your offspring – if they’d play with cheap Asian rip-offs made of cheap toxic materials. But they don’t, and it’s not particularly your credit, but the EU’s one which banned them. This, again, forces Asian doll factories to rethink. A huge trading partner like the EU with almost 750 million citizens is a customer everyone says to: Don’t Wanna Lose You. UK, on the other hand, with little more than 64 million citizens… Well… If it was only about what they think, and all the 686 million others would crave for the opposite… Guess who’d win!

Another one? Hm. There’s oil in the Pipeline, right? Not the Scottish ones, we forget about them for a moment as – Do You Remember? – wise scientists said during the indyref campaigns and even now that the Scottish oil isn’t sufficient anyway. No, the Russian ones. Bringing Fuel to the stations everywhere. But wait, between Great Britian and Russia are what? At least half a dozens countries on the map. All of them EU members. So it’s rather unlikely that they say „oh, sure, you can have the oil for the same price, using our pipelines, although you don’t pay for them or anything really any more“ if UK said Bye Bye Love. Right? Fuel prices would rise in UK in that case, says my logic. And if you have a look here, there are much wiser people than me foretelling much worse things even.

And The Other Side? Checking my crystal ball, it shows hatred, anger, fear. Anger that every EU citizen has to pay his or her emergency contribution for Greece’s Empty Pockets and so on. We weren’t raging on the bank crash, on the other hand. Why not? Because it was about white collars and so-called uninfluenceable coincidences? Anyway, there’s this annoyance: paying for others. Even more as the refugees who are mainly in different countries and not particularly in Great Britian also cost money. Right, refugees. That’s a huge topic for the Let Me Leave lovers. Many don’t want them in Europe, let alone in their neighbourhood. But how is that an argument to leave the EU? I don’t really get it. While in Germany, for example, there are refugee camps everywhere and the actual numbers count 1,2 million (in digits: 1.200.000) people (until now! still more coming!), PM David Cameron was as gracious as promising to accept 20.000 over five years. So UK isn’t taking much weight on its shoulder anyway. Is 20.000 still too much and a reason to bugger off Against All Odds?

What are the arguments of the Leave-side? I don’t know. You don’t know. Because we all haven’t heard and read many arguments. Oh right, Money Money Money. But how would it be an advantage to negotiate own trading deals with Asia, for example, when the highest amount of all UK exports go to Europe? I won’t collect more arguments here, my fellow journalists from the Telegraph have written quite a nice overview here. And you, dear reader, have understood by now that my whole view is a wee bit sarcastic. Maybe I’m Sick of It All. Hatred, anger, but also empty promises and polite hushing up of serious imbalances. Maybe I just want you to think. Of what might change for us all if you, dear Brits, overstep the Point of No Return. A union, and that’s your view from two years ago if I remember correctly, is like a marriage: Not easy, with ups and downs, but We Are Family. Or not?

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GE: Truth is what you make of it

Tomorrow is the day: General Election (GE) 2015 in Great Britain. British people vote for their representatives in the parliament and lay down the political tracks for the following years. Being part of Europe and having several standards such as human rights, democracy, a social security system, general education and health care etc., the most important basics are safeguarded, no matter what the GE outcome might be. So the question is effectively about political details: demilitarisation vs. armament, energy transition vs. further use of nuclear powers (for arms but also power supply), profit maximization vs. support of disadvantaged people and small businesses, limiting the immigration vs. using it against skill shortage and demographic change. But reading and hearing what the parties’ campaigns and their supporters’ ideas are about, the voting pretends to be about some different things. Scottish independence, for example, or the end of austerity, or the end of the world even by conjuring a second Third Reich. Let’s see.

I won’t recite party manifestoes here (and eat them alive…). I am neither affiliated with a party or a political idea therefore, nor activist/mouthpiece for a single political view, and there are enough sites and blogs on all the programmes online yet. My concern is to encourage all the loud and the silent voters as well as all unconcerned Non-UK readers to think about some facts without getting influenced by the growing number of manipulators. What I’ve observed lately, reading blogs and tweets foremost, was worrying. There are people in the anonymity of the internet, hiding themselves behind fake names and fake or comic or avatar pics, telling their recipients in the chest voice of a prophet that they represent the real truth and the only right view, accusing dissidents of bad things and insulting them with abusive names only and solely because they don’t share their view. That’s not what the main idea of democracy is about. In particular if democracy is mopped-up in addition when the same people who fire against dissidents start whining about getting abused as soon as their dissidents fire back. Remember, no matter what your view is, every other person has the freedom to have an own view which might differ, and that’s perfectly okay. That’s freedom.

Some facts which possibly don’t have anything to do with the GE but might influence voters’ decisions if they don’t think about them reasonably:

  • GE 2015 and the past Scottish Independence Referendum (September 18th 2014) are two completely different things and have nothing in common, so both shouldn’t give direction to each other. It’s nonsense to “penalise” the SNP by voting “tactically” against it in the GE if the only reason is a No-support during the indyref. Indyref is over, Scotland said No, full stop. If former indyref-No-voters support SNP aims now and decide to vote for it, it’s not a decision against the British union, because the question is not separation now, the question is about political details and setting the course; see above. Equally, if independence-supporters tick most of their boxes when reading the Tory programme, they should vote for what they believe in. Indyref wasn’t about parties and political ideas, it was about separation. GE isn’t about separation, it’s about voting for representatives of one’s own political attitude.
  • Austerity is a strong word and can be used for all and nothing. Austerity means: going without something for a certain period of time, it means shortage. But that’s not necessarily bad. A fictive example: Imagine you get 1000 bucks per month and after paying for all running costs you have 100 for your free disposal. But you know that there’s a payment of tax arrears ahead in the amount of 600 for the year. There’s this dress though, and you desperately want to buy it – for 200. But that’s the money you have for yourself in two months = negative balance for one month, austerity for two months, right? No, not right. Because you cannot count with money which is not yours. Effectively you have a free disposal of only 50/month, not 100, because half of your 100/month are owned by the fiscal authority. That’s hurtful, yes, but it’s not your money although you get it. So 200 for a dress are what you have in four months, means you cannot go to cinema or for cocktails in four months if you buy it. It feels like austerity, but actually it’s the price you pay for the dress. You cannot blame the fiscal authority then, it’s not to blame for your inability to afford any expenses. You are to blame for your decision. But it’s not a bad thing, it doesn’t mean you’re generally poor, it only means you’ve treated yourself with a dress which was too expensive for your budget. It’s quite the same with the kind of austerity which is discussed everywhere these days: There is a budget, there are demands which cause costs, if more money than the budget implies gets spent there’s a gap, and this gap has to be filled, so expenses have to be saved somewhere = austerity. It’s necessary to refrain from amenities in order to satisfy needs – if the needs are more important than the amenities, and that’s the relevant point, not the result (= causing vs. avoiding austerity).
  • Poverty is another strong word and often misused in a manipulative way. Again the same example as above: It doesn’t mean that you’re poor if your budget doesn’t allow you to buy the 200-bucks-dress. You have clothes, you live in a dry place with a toilet and fresh water around, you get meals – in the worst case by making use of food banks. So you are not poor. Scotland – or Britain, that is – is not the only country in the world with food banks, Germany has them as well and many others, too. But fact is that no one really has to starve in European countries, we all pay for backstops for people who are socially and financially disadvantaged, and that’s good. So the actual problem is not about poverty in the literal meaning of the word – think of Third World issues with children starving to death, sleeping in the dirt without a warm place and fresh water even – but about equality. European people are not content with essential basics any more, they want to have a certain standard, based on self-determination (of nutricion, housing, clothing, consumption etc.). But some of these things – consumer goods in the first place – should be considered a kind of reward, not a taken-for-grantedness. People should take efforts to get it therefore. So helping the poor should mean helping people to be able to work for a better living standard, not just giving them more money. Politics against “poverty” do invest in education in the first place and is not about lowering taxes and the like.
  • Nationalism is a misused and misunderstood word. Like every other label of political tendencies it’s just a word in the first place and has to be filled with meaning by using it to describe a particular attitude and acting. If nationalism is about the idea that a community of people consider themselves “better”, about isolation, about devaluating everyone who’s not part of that community, it’s doubtlessly a bad thing; see Third Reich Germany, the preferred example of many #SNPout shouters webwide. If what the people of a community make of the word nationalism is about supporting all their fellow citizens (yes, also the ones who were born elsewhere and migrated), boost equal rights and opportunities, encourage the citizens to strengthen their economy by working hard and preferring products made in their home country without judging or deningrating “outsiders”, it can be a good thing. Nationalism is a word. Words are neutral. What people make of them makes them good or bad.
  • Celebrities earn their money with being popular. Sounds trivial, but it’s true. If they get involved into campaigns or support parties, their conviction can be but don’t need to be the reason. Other reasons can be publicity/image buildung/identification. So it’s never a good idea to vote for or against a party only because an idol speaks for or against it. Honestly, I’ve never thought about celebrities’ political views before, they didn’t play a role in election contexts in Germany during the past 30 years at least as far as I know from my own experience. But I’ve observed that they do play a role in GB, suprisingly enough. For example, JK Rowling was reported to stand firm against “cybernat abuse” here just two days before GE. It’s not okay to abuse anyone in any way, sure. But I was abused as well and not by nats, why aren’t the papers writing on that just before GE? Because I’m irrelevant? Why is JK Rowling relevant for the GE, in what way is she “more” than just an individual person with an individual view? But she has fans, many fans, and these fans might think “aw, poor JK, how could I possibly vote for nationalists if supporters abuse her”, right? That’s why articles like that shortly before voting day are manipulative, in my honest opinion, and that’s why I want to raise awareness for the fact that it’s not reasonable to melt fanship and voting decisions.

Enough. Voting day is just hours ahead. I don’t think the turnout will be much higher than 60% (61,4% in 2005, 65,1% in 2010, see here, but campaigns with a negative basic mood cause political apathy, I’d foretell), and I don’t think there will be big surprises concerning the outcome. It’s just a result, it’s neither good or bad. Important is what people will make of it. Truth will show itself in future.

©Maria Pakura