Few quick thoughts on Brexit
My first reaction last night, which I still fully stand behind, was this,
Brexit is pushback against huge social and economic changes that have devalued a great many people.
They are changes that have demanded many people give up long standing notions of who they are, what is their place in the world, and questioned how they find meaning.
That same anger, and the reasons for it, is here in the US also.
I work with addicts these days and have spent the last five years driving all across the country, spending weeks/months/years in places many live in, but few visit. Places filled with poverty and addiction.
What I learned is that addiction is on the same spectrum as suicide. It is a slower form, but comes from the same place.
It led me to one of the first books to study suicide, by Émile Durkheim who wanted to understand why people would kill themselves.
He suggests people needed a sense of integration and regulation, to feel part of something that worked. They needed strong bonds to a larger society. Without that, they often took their own life. He called that sense of isolation or disruption, Anomie.
I see Anomie wherever I go. The things that used to give people meaning: Their work, their union, their family, their church, their bridge club, their elks club, whatever, have been eroded. And often mocked.
We over the last 50 years have replaced that, and now demand that people be valued by their intellect, and their wealth. We have further diminished whole groups of people by increasing the amount we reward the new and few “winners.”
To make things even worse, we often outright mock anyone who can’t keep up, or doesn’t fit in with the new order. We call them dumb. Idiots. Religious freaks. Rednecks. Thugs. Hoodlums. Ghetto trash. White trash.
The language we use to talk about those who have been left behind is rife with nasty attempts to turn them into lesser humans. We use the tactics of racism, and apply it to economic losers.
And often they respond by joining racist groups. Or latching onto racist policies and agendas.
Which makes it easier to demean them, because racism is bad. Bad. Bad. Bad. And as a kid of a German Jew who barely made it out of Nazi Germany, as a kid who grew up in a small southern town. As a kid who had our car windows shot out (while his dad was in it!) because my dad was a “Nigger loving Jew”. Yes racism is awful. Bad. Disgusting. Nasty.
But racism, and fascism, are very successful scams that sell to the desperate. Fascism understands that people want to feel valued and integral part of something larger. Racism is, sadly, the easiest and cheapest way to do that.
So, yes push back against the racism. Loudly.
But offer something else, a way for others to feel included. Provide a process, other than getting an education in an elite school, that gives people meaning, solidarity, and value.
Simply saying they are not valid, or lesser, or they are stupid. Or they are idiots. That is racism’s ugly cousin elitism, so don’t turn it into a fight of the ugly. You think that is going to help people feel included?
If you hate racism, then you really really really should hate any economic and social system that creates and rewards massive inequality. Because when you get that. You get racism.
And that is the system we have built and now have. That is the system that most everyone screaming about the dumb racists is part of, usually supports, and wins from.