Personal: On Brexit

I’m a child of the European Union, I hold a double citizenship, have travelled more than 20 countries, spent 3 years abroad and yes – I’m a child of Erasmus. Brits, Poles, French, Italian, Spaniards and Germans drank beer together – something our grandparents couldn’t imagine. So yes, the Brexit hit me, it hit my European identity. The last six decades were the period of prosperity, but – and this is crucial – of the rise of inequality and an incredible speed of change.

From what we know now, it was mainly the elderly and poor who believed in populism and the demagogues. Perhaps change and inequality was too much to bare for them, perhaps austerity killed hope, perhaps there is hatred which is deeply rooted in human beings and can be easily triggered by events which are perceived as a threat – such as a flow of refugees.

The Brexit is one of the moments when you realise that something historic is going on. The uncetrainty reminds me of the feeling I had on September 11th 2001. At the same time it is a moment to teach us – not to underestimate fear, to understand the necessity of societal security, that people decide emotionally-driven and – most importantly – not to panic! Different times bring different challenges. Our parents and grandparents witnessed World War II, the Cuba Crisis, the Vietnam War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall. Every single event had winners and losers. So we will manage to deal with a Brexit and move on.

Great Britain will pay the price for its decision. Economic turbulances are inevitable, but it seems like identity beats wealth. And for the rest of us it will be more important than ever to distinguish between ideology and facts, to listen to the ones who might appear boring but reasonable instead to the ones who fiercly convince voters with hatred. It sickens me to see how euro-sceptic politicians yet have started to celebrate the decline of the EU in order to promote nothing more but racism anti-Islam messages.

No doubt, the EU has its flaws, it’s slow, bureaucratic with a challenging monetary idea and at times it is  technocratic – but there is no perfect system and never will be. However, this is the most stable system the European continent ever had. The sheer co-existance of nation states failed over and over again and planning in the long run, I doubt that any country can survive economically on a global scale with powers emerging all over the globe. But let’s wait and drink a cup of tea in loving memory of our lost member state and contemplate about a world without the EU or at least a EU without Great Britain.

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3 Kommentare zu „Personal: On Brexit

  1. Generally there is a total misconception about the benefits of the EU. Free Travel – German citizens can travel in almost any country > 150 (except US, Russia and China and some small countries) either without a visum or with a visum on Arrival. There is no EU passport – not all EU countries have the same freedom of trave!. In most non EU countries you need a working permit if you want to work in the country. The EU has done with that and created huge problems. The right of an EU citizen to work in any country is not very helpfull when there are no jobs for the young people. When I was at the University in the 70’s there were many students from abroad. Money was provided by many organisations – there was no centralized funding like todays Erasmus program. The first Youth Exchange Program between France and Germany dates back to 1963! The big divide was the Iron Curtain between the West and East. But if you were interested you could go almost everywhere e.g. Russia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Romaniy, Bulgaria. The problem were not the people but the politicians and the systems they created – this has not changed fundamentally. Nationalism and hate towards foreigners has really nothing to do with the EU. It was always the weapon of inferior politicians and „Leaders“ – they need an ennemy. However, politicians are elected by the people. The first finding I agree with Bundespräsident Gauck: The problem are the people! Unfortunaley ignoring the People seems not to work for the EU.

    1. You apparently grew up in stable times of prosperity, too. But people behind the Iron Curtain hardly had the same freedom… The Brexit therefore is a deeply unsettling symbol of the lacking will for compromise, understanding and a long-term vision of co-operation. And to me, the EU has served its purpose to reconcile different parties. GB will find structural and institutional paths to be a worthy partner of the EU, but I fear that this could reinforce a downward spiral of destructive nationalism and economic disintegration.

  2. Maybe its just as simple as that: People living on an island tend to be anxious of everything, coming from abroad. Maybe.
    But in reality, everybody has to learn, that times they are a changing……
    This can be a painful experience.

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