The moment in Jerry Maguire when he writes his Mission Statement is such a memorable film sequence. The passion, the morality and that feeling deep down inside of the viewer wishing you had that moment of clarity and could engage people in that way. This blog is nothing like Jerry Maguire. Well, apart from the heartfelt desire I had to ‘get this off my chest’ and the inevitable calls I will be doing to all my mates once they’ve read it begging them to follow me on social media again.
Writing about politics is certainly something I’ve never done before, in fact even thinking about politics has never taken up much of my headspace for as far back as I can remember. I was also a little hesitant to use this Blog to talk about these issues, but for someone that historically hasn’t engaged in politics I do feel really strongly about this stuff, and the main reason (or possibly the only reason) for that is because I am starting to think about how what is going on in the world may affect Ella’s future.
So treading very carefully, I’d like to speak about some of the things going on in the world…and genuinely it’s not about right or wrong, it’s just me setting out my views and why I’ve reached them. If this isn’t your thing then I understand.
When I look at the potential of a no-deal Brexit, I think mostly about what kind of impact this will have for Ella growing up. It scares the life out of me if I’m honest. I’ve been fortunate enough to grow up in an era of Western peace, a stable economy, and most of all, a tolerant and multi-cultural society that more and more embraces different cultures, religions and backgrounds. That for me personally is what it means to be British, although I accept others have a different stance. What I’ve seen through Brexit and what worries me the most is the erosion of these standards. The fear-mongering around foreign nationals, the intolerance of other people’s views, the inability to debate and listen, agree to disagree, the forming of opinions without an understanding of the subject matter, the turn away from a global community towards an old-school, insular view of the world.
Regardless of why people voted and what their views or beliefs are or were at the time of the referendum, I felt the way politicians and the national press engaged the public (and continue to do so) was nothing short of criminal. Remain clearly felt they didn’t need to bother, didn’t need to even try highlighting the pros of the EU construct…whether it was down to a complete lack of planning, sheer arrogance, or even a complete misreading of the genuine public discourse at the time we will never know, but they forgot the first rule of any vote…engage the neutrals. You won’t win over many hardcore Leavers and you won’t lose many avid Remainers, but the swing is in the middle ground. The unsure, undecided and unengaged. This population either don’t vote, or vote emotionally. Leave on the other hand understood this very well. They embarked on a campaign directly targeting that middle ground, using emotive topics such as immigration and the NHS to pull those key votes across. This was aided in part by large swathes of the national press, who shamelessly peddled this line and played on people’s fears, disregarding their primary public duty, to report the facts.
What nobody done was give us the full facts and let us make an informed decision, and regardless of how Brexit unfolds (I fear the worst and hope for the best), this is a backwards step for Britain and our Values. None of this is sour grapes and it’s not to suggest nobody knew what they were voting for; Leave won the referendum and as much as I would love one, a second referendum would ultimately undermine our democracy. In fact, the only scenario where I would begrudgingly support a second vote would be if a no-deal Brexit were the only option remaining. It’ll be an interesting few months regardless and though I genuinely hope Boris Johnson can deliver a deal with the EU, my personal view on him is that he will use Brexit as a way of polarising the public ahead of a general election in an attempt to secure his own Premiership. I think he will yet again prey on emotions, blame the EU, blame Parliament, blame Remain voters, blame everyone but himself. That is what I think is his long game, and why I fear that he has no intention of delivering on an orderly exit from the EU.
Brexit alone is cause for concern, but it is also unfolding against a backdrop of global political unrest.
Fascism seems to be gaining momentum in France, Italy, Germany, Sweden and even in Britain with Tommy R and a fairly radicalised UKIP. Russia, US and North Korea seem to be constantly testing each other’s patience in a worrying game of brinkmanship and I fear that a Europe moving away from its current democratic and liberal stance only strengthens the hands of these Dictators. Obviously the primary concern here is war, but the other big elephant in the room is climate change. This existential threat to humanity is a global crisis that requires a global solution. Facism or even Nationalist politics naturally adopts a more inward looking approach, and in the case of climate change this could be lethal, not for us, but maybe for our children and their children. Donald Trump still refuses to accept climate change is real for Christ’s sake! It is very real, and I beg you all to go onto YouTube and type in Greta Thunberg…this very young activist is intelligent, passionate and articulate…she represents all of the things that leaders like Trump try to suppress, but she also for me embodies what our children, the future generation are about….and listening to Greta speak is actually quite emotional, uplifting and gives me hope.
Another thing that keeps me up at night is what job prospects will Ella have when she’s older. We are in the western world beginning its transition toward the 4th industrial revolution. The invention of the steam engine in the 1700’s gave rise to the first mass production capabilities, a century later marked the energy revolution with gas and oil, then the digital age…and now we embark on the 4th. This revolution is the merger of the digital, physical and biological worlds. That alone is change enough, but the pace of change is the real risk. It took 75yrs for 100 million people to have a telephone and it took 1 month for the same number of people to download the latest Pokemon app. This pace of change makes it difficult for governments, companies and individuals to keep up. How do they integrate this into policy, strategy and training? What impact will this have on employment? Automation is great for the company heads, but less so for workers. What impact will this have on the ever-widening chasm of social and economic inequality that we see not just in Britain, but globally? And how will a post-Brexit Britain remain at the forefront of this change in a more isolated, inward looking approach?
How do we protect the poorest in society through this change? As with every evolutionary jump, Joe Public unskilled workers invariably suffer whilst the rich become richer; though of course at a macro level it brings great societal and economic benefits. It progresses humankind, but at what cost?
With such technological leaps comes a global collective responsibility to use it for good. The political instability we see now is a watershed moment in that context. With a disjointed Europe, an inward looking US, a tense Russia and N.Korea and the aggressive growth in the sleeping giants of India and China, what are the odds that we develop this new technology in ethical ways? You might laugh at that notion, but we’ve walked this tightrope once before. When Nuclear Fission was discovered in the 1930s it of course brought untold industrial and economic benefits to the developed world and brought a quick end to a bloody war, but it also made us the first species on this planet that had invented a way to make itself extinct….and we very nearly did! So it’s not a huge leap of the imagination to assume that AI and bioengineering will also be considered in the context of its application in warfare.
We’ve all studied modern history, we are aware of the impact WW1 and 2 had on people, but we take for granted the peace we are now privileged to live through and I think forget that in the main this is down to the global cooperation that bodies such as the EU and the UN have encouraged amongst member nations. We see British politicians using the term ‘War Cabinet’ to describe a team of people focused on solving a diplomatic problem of their own creation. This very deliberate and dangerous language infers that the EU is our enemy, that they hit the red button. They didn’t. We did.
Dont get me wrong, these organisations aren’t perfect, and nor can they be to everyone. What they are trying to do though is tackle issues that have a global impact and require a global solution. They are also trying to maintain peace. The EU and UNs genesis is the bitter aftermath of WW2, the realisation of the horrors of war and a passion to prevent it from ever happening again. So in the context of the rise of fascism and ever-increasing political unrest, the thought crosses my mind that we could be sleep-walking into another World War. Pre-WW2 German citizens were not looking for war. They wanted better living standards, less poverty, a stable economy. They wanted change and they had in Hitler a leader that not only promised change in impassioned nationalistic speeches, but gave them someone to point the finger at…and we as a nation need to learn from this.
We need to question this rhetoric.
Look at immigration….politicians like Farage and Trump will say that immigrants are the problem and that the solution is to ship them all back where they came from, but it isn’t as simple as that. I feel that they are an easy target, take a step back and think about it….why are they leaving their country? It’s why when we send taxpayers money into a Syrian warzone I am happy with that, for two reasons. One, you don’t tackle immigration by putting up walls, you do it by helping these countries become stable and able to support their public. There’s also a human element that sadly our press don’t highlight enough. These are people. Parents. Children. You don’t travel across the world in a dinghy because you want a Macdonald’s and an iPhone, you do it because your life or livelihood or family is in danger. These people are not our enemy, they have unfortunately been born into these environments, these governments, these warzones…it could’ve been you or me. Imagine for a moment we were in their shoes, running for our lives or even recognising you could have a better one elsewhere…would you do anything differently? Would you want another country to help you or would you sit there and think “oh well, not their problem I’ll just sit here and die quietly”? Of course not, you would do everything in your power to make a better life for your family. We also shouldn’t ignore the fact that a lot of immigration stems from countries we have destabilised for various morally dubious reasons. Movements we have armed. Natural resources we have tried to lay claim over.
This all feels very negative, and it is to an extent, but it’s real. It’s what I think of when Brexit is mentioned, it’s why I voted to remain and would do so again today. It’s why I ignore the press coverage of immigration and bendy bananas and the fear that our Government seeks to push around on these topics. It’s why I feel more than ever a sense of global community is tantamount to the survival of not just Britain, not just the world, but of Ella, and her children.
So as I head off into the sunset with nothing but a goldfish, what is the summary here? What are the positives? Well, we have a choice, we are lucky enough to live in a democracy after all. We can choose to hold politicians to account on social media and in the voting booths. Instead of letting them point the finger at immigrants, the EU, Religious groups, ask them how these people are to blame for our failing NHS, our under-funded legal system, record cuts in police men and women, Teachers…don’t let them off so easily, don’t let them divert your attentions with cheesy soundbites.
Well, I hope some of you made it this far…guys, this isn’t all I think about, it’s not all consuming, but I hope you found this blog interesting and please feel free to share your thoughts and counter-points…let’s talk more about this stuff.
I promise the next blog will be about nappies and cuddly bears!