It is very telling that the vote in the UK to leave the European Union is followed by calls for referenda in France and the Netherlands--by their own nationalist far-right parties like France's National Front.
The face of nationalist movements--like
America's own "America First" incarnation in Donald Trump and Boris Johnson's "leave" campaign--are thinly
veiled forms of racism and xenophobia wrapped in the flag.
more surprising is that such movements would garner support in the
UK--a union of countries whose societies reflect reason, great value for
multiculturalism, and a deep sense of pride in their compassion for the
plight of other peoples.
I understand that among the drivers that set BREXIT into motion is the widening gap between the wealthy and the poor in the UK.
I understand that this is about class, and that there's a more complex story accompanied by decades of economic struggle and social injustice.
But what I also know is that what infuses the very bone marrow of nationalist campaigns like Trump's "America First!," France's National Front (Marine Le Pen), Belgium's Flemish Nationalist Party, and the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats is that fear of the "other" that, simmering just beneath the surface of legitimate discontent, readily becomes fodder for those who'd exploit it to their own geopolitical advantage.
In the face of unprecedented human
migration--65.3 million women, men, and children in 2015--decisions like BREXIT suggest that the geopolitics of the planet are
driven not by thoughtful deliberation--but by fear, bigotry, and the
desperate attempt to save the thing that cannot be saved: the
geographically bordered nation state.
To think that such
decisions to close a border will protect from terrorism the turf on the
other side is daft.
Indeed, quite the opposite is likely to be true in
virtue of the fact that a world characterized by divided
fiefdoms--chunks of land devoted only to their own version of "Me
First!"--is a world cancered by fissures and faultlines.
It is a world
made very brittle by its own arrogant and medieval territorialism.
What is the difference between the UK determining to leave the EU--and
the psycho-maniacal Trumpster's promise to build a wall at the border of
Not really very much.
Both aim to keep out the "other."
Both exploit shallow flag-waving patriotism to ends far more about
privilege, and ethnicity, and money than about respect for country.
Both will make a very few of the already wealthy even richer.
Both will fuel the recruitment campaigns of terrorism.
There's no doubt: the European Union is beset by many and serious problems. But these will not be solved by flag-waving claims to sovereignty--especially in a world set ablaze by climate change.
Especially at a time when the greatest and most profound issues the world faces demand unified global commitment--not the entrenchment of geographical borders antiquated by the hegemony of multinational corporations.
BREXIT betokens a very sad day for the UK--and perhaps an even sadder day for the world.