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EU: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Confused by UK/EU? Me too…trying to work it out

Europe, huh, what is it good for?

I’m confused.  I have been reading, watching and listening to the “debate” on Brexit for months now.  All I’ve gleaned so far is that all sides are lying, falsifying and misdirecting.  The meeja are following their master’s voice and disseminating as much garbage as our elders and betters.  It’s like a gaggle of kids on heavy e-numbers.  So far, it’s been hard to discern, amongst all the smoke and mirrors, hysteria and exaggeration ANYTHING that could be construed (loosely) as the truth {for a given value of true}.

I’m confused: so this is me trying to feel my way through the dark, haunted mansion of my scattered thoughts and feelings.   If this chimes with anyone at all…it’s not my fault.  If anyone disagrees with me, join the club, I disagree with me too.

How did I get here?

Walked.  Obviously.  So did everybody else.  “Where from” is only relevant if you’re either a pedant or you’ve got a hidden agenda; please don’t feel the need to share.  The entire human race is migratory, always has been, always will be.  We are nomadic because either the planet’s ganged up on us with winter, summer, fire, ice, floods, drought, earthquakes (add inconvenience of your choice) or we, the humans, wore out the local ecosphere through ignorance or wilful stupidity including war.  Especially war.  What is wrong with us?  Anyway….

So, here we are, wherever here is.  In my case, I am living on the largest of a collection of islands offshore from a large land mass currently named Europe.  Or at least, some of it is called that. Other bits are known to us English speakers as the Middle East, Asia and an awkward bit called Russia.   Awkward, because some of Russia is thought of as Eastern Europe (so, European) but a lot of it isn’t…and sort of Asian.

History: Gone in 60 seconds

That’s the problem with defining “This Is My Place”, ownership, occupancy and all the other complications that arise from deciding to stop being a nomad.  Or, rather being coerced by somebody (usually large and armoured) or forced by any of the above until something else.  Repeat with variations for eternity.

Over millennia, the result is that each of us carries a personal mental/emotional map, a hierarchy of loyalties  which conflict with each other within ourselves and with others where “others” are broadly defined as anything from an annoying sibling all the way up to the rise and fall of empires. Or ebb and flow. Two types of motion, same results.

Mostly, all anybody wants is shelter, clean water, food, family, friends and some spare value to enjoy ourselves.  It’s not complicated.  Until Mr Large and Armoured shows up, that is.  The trouble with him is that he generally has “issues”to do with a feeling of inadequacy of some kind, often starting with the phrase “the size of his….” piece of land, bank account, power to make others’ lives miserable and, yes, the size of his penis.

Unfortunately, there have been many such men over the course of European history.  How this history is recounted depends on the teller; the teller rarely emerges as the villain.  Picking my way through the conflicting versions usually means I end up with the version which suits my views.  And so it is wherever you look. Like the snail that can only travel half the remaining distance to the wall, we can get close but we will never touch the wall.

Europe evolved bloodily and slowly over three thousand years.  Power accumulated in small fiefdoms and war followed war; alliances were made and broken and larger kingdoms emerged.  Sometimes they grew into empires which, in due course, fell apart.  The collapse of Rome didn’t lead to the sunlit uplands of peaceful opportunity; the Dark Ages weren’t as midnight black as they were painted but the inhabitants retreated into smaller units again.  The whole cycle repeated itself until we reached something like the nation states we see today.

Yet, these nations aren’t as homogeneous as we tend to think. Each one is made up of intensely independent regions as, for example, in Spain where the currently dominant culture of Castile is challenged by Basques and Catalans. Even the stereotypical culture of Spain is a mixture of other influences from Islamic North Africa which was in turn influenced by civilisations on the far side of the world: oranges and paper from China, for instance.

This mixture is found everywhere in Europe; our nations are only real within the context of our hierarchy of loyalties which include family, clan, tribe, village, town, region, religion and finally, maybe, nation.  None of these loyalties is absolute; every level has elasticity depending on circumstances.  A war with another nation tends to emphasize our particular national identity at the expense of other priorities, even to death.

Over time, these loyalties expanded beyond the nation state until we reached supranational entities such as The Allies and The Axis.  Some empires collapsed; others emerged. The last major conflict, the Second World War, was so destructive that European leaders realised that we needed another way to handle conflict and confrontation.  After centuries of murder, mayhem and misery:  War, it turned out, wasn’t the best way to negotiate or to reach agreement.  Who knew?

What Europe did next…

Amongst the rubble and dust of WWII it occurred to many that instead of trading insults and explosive munitions, we could just trade instead. A few nations seemed sympatico and they started a club, membership of which was offered to the British.  Britain turned down the opportunity on the grounds that, being British, we had an empire (most of which was legging it into self-government) and that we were therefore asset rich even if we were cash poor. We really, really don’t need Johnny Foreigner’s input. We’re British, damn it.  Stiff upper lip and all that.  As a nation we believed we were cock of the dungheap.

Unfortunately, the delusions that allowed us to survive against the probabilities of Axis power blinded us to the realities of the post-1945 world. No longer number one, no longer an empire, no longer solvent. Successive governments came and went, each one discovering how much the previous government had lied about how “strong” the accounts were. Each administration concealed the actuality, as if playing a giant game of Liar Dice.