When in Rome, live like a Roman
Once upon a time, I used to play football with a few people. We used to have a good and respectful game. If one of the teams called for an offside, everyone agreed. If one of the teams called for a foul, everyone agreed. Nobody questioned these calls because everyone trusted each other. And the games were extremely fun as a result. Then one day, a new kid joined the group. We continued to play the same, until he started questioning offside and foul calls and started arguing that they weren’t. The rest of us, who trusted the calls each one made, trusted him as well and let things go. A little time later, three others joined the group. They began to question calls as well. And soon, every game would be marked with arguments and bickering. Even if none of the original group members got involved in the bickering, the other four weren’t always on the same team (naturally) and they argued with each other. And this affected the game for everyone. It was no longer all joy and fun to play. The culture of the group was lost.
Another time, at school, it was cool to be nerdy. If there was free time, I could proudly say that I’m going to the library instead of playing and not be made fun of. And then came a jock. And then came a few more jocks. Pretty soon, like everywhere else, being a jock was the cool thing to do. The tables had turned. One could now skip classes to go play and not be made fun of. In fact, that would only add to their popularity. The culture had changed.
Yet another time, at work, everyone talked about doing things to improve the product, improve the sales and increase the user base. Nobody questioned anyone’s intentions, because everyone was working towards the same goal. However, as we grew, one or two people joined who had other agendas. To them, it was more important to get raises and promotions and to be seen as the power centres within the company. Naturally, decisions they took weren’t always in the interest of the company. And then, a few more people like that joined the company. Soon, the company descended into chaos with a caustic atmosphere that nearly everyone complained about. The original enthusiasm was lost. The culture had changed.
We can leave a football group and find another. There are plenty of people that play football. There are hundreds of schools as well. We can find a school where being nerdy is cool. We can quit a job and find a company to work for where the atmosphere is not caustic.
But what if it isn’t a football group or a school or a job? What if it is something far far bigger? What if it’s our country whose culture is changing? What to do then? Quit the country and find another one? Especially when you’ve spent all of your thirty or forty or fifty or sixty years of your life in that country? Would you be in a state of mind to go find another one?
Now, this isn’t the complete story. There were other people that joined my football group. There were other people that joined my school. There were other people that joined my workplace. But these people assimilated. They didn’t change the culture for the worse. Better and worse is subjective, I agree, and hence I went with personal examples so that I can weigh in on whether the change was really for the better or for worse.
The big theme this year has been ‘taking back our country’. First Britain, and then the US, with Trump. For the longest time, I couldn’t really empathise with those that felt the need to take their country back. I always thought that the reasoning was economics. And I even felt it could have been racism. But, read through my examples again and see what aspect of that is racist or of economics.
The new kids that had come could have been much better players or they could have been blacks or they could have been muslims or they could have been caucasians. That wouldn’t have changed a thing. They would either assimilate or change the culture for the better or change the culture for the worse. It is only when they changed it for the worse that I had to look for alternatives.
As did the Americans and the Brits. And they found their alternatives in Trump and in Brexit respectively.
Trump supporters aren’t racist fucks. Those who voted for Brexit aren’t stupid. They were just responding to a changing cultural landscape, which they clearly feel is for the worse. And the message to ‘take back the country’ resonated with them.
I live by the mantra, ‘When in Rome, live like a Roman’. If more people had assimilated into the local culture, then the Leave vote may not have won and Trump may not have been President-elect. So let’s look back on how this reflects on us.