Monday, June 27, 2016

Racism on the rise :-(

Like a lot of other people around the world, I am astounded and deeply upset that the UK voted to leave the European Union last week. As a result, a huge number of things are now going on in British politics, and one can only hope that something happens that somehow keeps us in the EU. Apparently Scotland, where the vote was strongly remain, may have some kind of veto. Also the petition to run another referendum now has well over 3 million signatures.

However, the thing that disturbs me most about the situation is the rise of right wing nationalism and intolerance. The British EU referendum where the leave campaign had the slogan "Take back control" is just one example of this, because it seems to be happening all over the Western world. Donald Trump becoming the Republican nominee for US president is another example, as is the fact that Austria almost elected a far right wing president last month.

In the UK, even though the Leave side only won a by slim margin, a side effect of their success is that all the nasty people now feel that their views have some validity. In this context "nasty" means all the racists and fascists, and all the members of the far right wing groups such as the British National Party, Britain First, the English Defence League and so on. The result is a significant rise in incidents of racism :-(.

I even witnessed a very minor incident of racism myself. Travelling back to London from Gatwick airport last Friday, after a trip to France with boyfriend K, all the trains are a bit delayed and taking much longer than usual to reach their destinations. When we get near the London terminus, we stand up to wait near the door so that we can be one of the first off the train, and I get chatting to a man in his mid 30's who's also waiting near the door.

"Another day, another train delay!" he says to me, with a slightly fed up look on his face. He speaks perfect English, but I can tell from his accent that he's European rather than British.

"Any idea what the excuse is this time?" I ask, "perhaps the recent flooding is the problem?"

"I'm not sure," he replies, "but I do this journey every day and there always seems to be one problem or another :-(".

We chat a bit more about the sad state of the train service south of London, but then an older English guy who'd been listening to our conversation decides to join in.

"You must come from a country where the train services are always perfect," he says with a sneer in his voice. The guy that I was talking to looks mildly uncomfortable, but I find a way to continue the conversation in a way that supports him, and luckily the older guy doesn't say anything else.

I've always subscribed to the view that although democracy isn't a perfect political system, it's the least worst. However, being imperfect it delivers results like this that run contrary to common sense, given that all the major British political parties as well as countless other organisations have argued that Brexit is stupid! The electorate seem to think that our current prosperity and freedoms are guaranteed, that the fascist regimes that we saw in Europe in the 1930's are ancient history, that war in Europe is not possible anymore. I disagree profoundly with such short-sighted complacency, and for me the original reason for starting European integration in the 1950's is still completely valid, namely to make war in Europe not merely unthinkable but materially impossible. In my opinion, the economic and security advantages of being in the EU are just the icing on the cake.

It wasn't just ethnic minorities that suffered in Europe during the Second World War, because gay people were also persecuted. I hope that the current move towards right wing politics doesn't get that far, and hopefully goes into reverse soon before anything really bad happens.