Atemporal Incidental- an ‘outsider’ lament to Brexit
Yesterday, Britain voted to leave the European Union.
On 7 May, 1999, sitting in my underwear munching on a sweet nectarine in a typical muggy Tianjin summer night, I bit into the nut of the fruit and cracked my newly set crown in half. This was caused by the breaking news on TV. I saw rumbles of a former office building, a torn Chinese flag mangled within. The red flag is laced chuncks of broken concrete like a burst artery. On the only shallow wall standing, a red poster with the word ‘happiness’ denoted quivering in the wind. It is a traditional poster for the newly wed to be displayed above their bed. Amongst the four journalists killed that night, a couple was in their sleep.
The saltiness of my blood and faint smell of rotted food flooded my face. The broadcast kept on rolling. I was paralysed. The sound of my parents in the faded background fussed about the fact my mouth is bleeding.
Nato bombed a Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, claimed it was an accident, but it was widely contested internationally. Days followed students took the street to demonstrate, and some violence broke out in Beijing when 100,000 protesters invaded the embassy district. Anti-American and anti-Nato sentiment rocketed. And I felt angry towards America and felt helpless as a child.
The next day at school I was the only person in class seems to genuinely emotionally affected by the news. That was also the day, I decided I am going to be a journalist (which is yet to happen).
I was woken up by a phone call from my father on 11 September, 2001. Despite clearly communicating my dismay, he insisted I switch on the television immediately. Begrudgingly, I did. As I rub the sleep out of my eyes, I watched an airplane hit a sky scrapper, and the one next to it was smoking and a big rip cut the building in half. The line went quiet between my father and I. I could hear the overlay of the same news channel reporting in each of our backgrounds. As we watched the twin towers of World Trade Centre, my heart broke and that pain was real. People died, not Americans that bombed my Embassy, people, died, that day.
My secondary school in Cambridge decided to protest against the Iraq war. A boy I knew went to that protest died in actions many years later. In 2005, 7 July, I texted my then boyfriend that London was attacked by terrorists while my face was swelling up in a food allergic attack. Three months before the Beijing 2008 Olympic, at 02:28:01PM, on 12 May, 69,197 people died that moment in Sichuan, China; 15 million people’s homes and lives destroyed by a huge earthquake. I heard the news in a taxi radio and we stopped by the roadside in silence listening.
Paris was attacked by terrorist in November 2015; Orland gay club shooting was on 15 June 2016. A day after the shooting, Jo Cox, a MP for Batley and Spen was shot and stabbed by a White Supremacist a week before Britain’s majority electorate turned to xenophobia and populism as the future.
People perished in these trauma. Not them or us, against the indifference of the universe, we are just monkey in shoes and can not be trusted with sugar and tabacco.
Yet, despite these collective traumas, I choose to be optimistic about the future of this land against the outcome of a Brexit. I am a well-educated liberal feminist artist who saw this nation a symbol of tolerance, progress and resilience. Democracy has spoken against my favour, in my opinion against the better future for this land. Being sore loser is not going to make things better. The trust has broken towards people who are legally recognised as British and I. The pain is sincere and acute.
I find it hard to resist the notion to call over half of the voters in this country racists, bigots and xenophobes. But I must find the strength as it is a dangerous notion to divide and scar the nation’s unity it even further, but finding the intelligence to forgive and move forward has been extremely trying to say the least.
It certainly has shattered the false sense of security that the collective intelligence and unity of this nation could raise above fear and anxiety caused by historical mistrust and current austerity. It is always easier to pick on ‘the Other’ when times are tough. Being one of ‘the Other’ in the UK, the referendum result scared me to the core.
I am at lost. If I leave the UK means the xenophobes won. Staying in the UK is just not a wise idea for me personally, Brexit is the last straw.
Sometimes the contents within the frame of reality shatters the very frame we use to perceive our existence and time. This kind of events hurt, overwhelm and disorient us all. It has made me to examine who has been the diluted party thus far: the shortsighted ‘Leave’ voters or the overconfident ‘Remain’ voters.
Learning history of China, a civilisation of 5000 years and counting, I witnessed the game of power amongst a people of unimaginable resilience and grounding wisdom played out in the safety of bounded pages. One thing I have learnt is that China was ripped apart to the core again and again, the worst pain has always been inflicted by pogroms amongst ourselves, in futile persuit of defining ‘us’ and ‘them’ . I hope this island nation’s insiders found faith, wisdom and strength to work through this existential crisis towards wiser and kinder future, if I am insisted to be seen as an outsider.