Friday, June 24, 2016

Cheers, Europe … it was nice knowing you!

Auf wiedersehen, adios, arrivederci, au revoir, vaarwel. That is what the British people, by a small margin, have decided to say to the European Union this evening (NYT). Following in the footsteps of nativist movements across the world, England will now stand alone, leaving the rest of Europe to find a way to live in harmony under one currency and free trade zone. It was a stunning victory for the right-wing group that sponsored the vote, not only sending shock waves across Europe and the globe, but causing the Pound to tumble like Road Runner over the cliff after another failed plan to snatch his nemesis.  

Like the nomination of Donald Trump as the GOP presidential candidate, it appears to show a new fascist tide rising across parts of the Western world, where anger over economic disparity has been planted firmly at the footstep of growing transnational migration and the immigrants looking for a better life at the core of the neoliberal economic juggernaut. Nigel Farage, the leader of the Independent Party largely responsible for the victory, proclaimed, “Dare to dream that the dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom.”

As the first of the 28-member bloc to leave, it is still unclear what effect it will have on the EU, though it is worth noting that England never accepted the Euro as their currency, and were thus not as closely aligned with the economic policies of Germany and France as the rest of the member countries. On the other hand, as a key player in the financial and banking industries of Europe, one imagines it will cause even further consternation as the European Union attempts to confront its failures over the past decade and a half to live up to its early promise.

More troubling is the anti-immigrant “populism” that is spreading like a Ziska plague across Europe and America and what it means for our collective future. The real culprits at the heart of the declining economic prosperity of all but the richest Westerners have dodged the proverbial bullet of the 2007-08 Financial Crisis so far and seem to have effectively used their political surrogates to create an alternative narrative that resonates with the people. The first rule of colonialism was divide and conquer and that still seems to be among the most effective strategies to keep an increasingly squeezed middle and working class at bay as their quality of life continues to decline.

Whether it can last in the long term is an interesting question, particularly with the model of economic prosperity, equality and opportunity the countries of Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark continue to provide to the rest of the Western nations, who conveniently ignore the data in lieu of tired old tales of neoliberal hegemony and its many beneficiaries. The election of Francois Hollande and the run of Bernie Sanders certainly provide some hope of a progressive “spring” that can restore some semblance of reason to the debate about our collective future, but it appears the reactionary policies of ressentiment are winning out with substantially more frequency at the present. 

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