Thoughts

Today, Despair. Tomorrow, Hope.

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A film blog does something a little different.

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EU Flag Wallpaper

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It’s not often you wake up and find that the world has actually changed. The UK has voted to leave the EU, a decision that will affect the everyday lives of each of us. Of course, we won’t actually be leaving for another two years, as the tricky web of Article 50 is navigated – but I feel a palpable change. Perhaps it’s more the realisation of a truth I’ve long feared, but always known deep down: Britain is in a really dark place right now.

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Okay, so Britain’s been in a dark place for a while; in the eight years since the recession first hit, as a society, morale has been spiralling downward almost as steeply as the economy. Almost a decade of finger-pointing later, and we find ourselves having democratically chosen to leave an organisation, while an admittedly imperfect one, that symbolises continent-wide inclusion of differing backgrounds and ethnicities. Will the UK’s economy strengthen as a result of our departure? Will it climb? No one knows for sure, because the only country to have done it was Greenland 31 years ago – and their main export is fish. Not exactly a comparable circumstance. And yes, the British pound has dropped like a house of cheap cards, but those are knee-jerk stock reactions: let it play out longer before you decide to jump from the top of the Gherkin. Honestly, the vote coming out in Leave’s favour confirmed a fear I had: the vote of the silent majority. They were the reason for the last General Election’s appointment of Cameron for a second go, a result that surprised even the PM himself – and yes, I’m aware that Cameron was campaigning against leaving the EU, but the mandated promise of a referendum was a forced-hand inclusion, something that has turned on him in a showcase of perfect poetic justice. Anyway, my point is that while my social media feed was almost exclusively of the Remain opinion, this majority of voters – those who aren’t necessary vocal, but turn out in their droves come the day – may be silent for a reason: their views are kind of ugly.

Not that they’re all exactly silent, that is. There’ve been many hot points of contention in the referendum debate – the real debate, that is. The one that took place on streets, in cars, in homes. But every conversation I’ve had (or conveniently overheard in kebab shops) with fellow voters has centred on one thing: Immigration. Not one argument for the Leave campaign that I’d heard touched on anything else as cohesively as the matter of immigration, and those arguments always divided themselves into smaller, bottom-line arguments: that essentially, immigrants – not just the ones of today, but of the last few decades – are taking our jobs. Frankly, if you believe that the sheer accident of birth entitles you to condemn the entrance into a country you don’t own of those whose only goal is to also share a relatively safe future, then perhaps you should rescind your own rights if you were to seek another life someplace else. And if you concede to the notion that Britain should be ‘for the British’, please take a look at the United Kingdom’s genealogy, including your own (‘British’, as it turns out, doesn’t mean much at all.). And don’t even get me started on the shocking xenophobia surrounding the refugee crisis. For a brief look at the type of people who would be in the Leave camp on the basis of such arguments, please take a look at this clip from Sky News; in the year 2116, I hope school teachers use this clip in classrooms and say, ‘here in Exhibit 1, we have someone who in the old days would be called a racist.’

And that is my dream. It’s your dream; a future in which the fear that something unknown – in that case, nothing more than other human beings – is replaced by an embrace of the present. Racism will, tragically, never go away – but we can work to diminish it. Voting to leave the EU has been a blow for this future – but only if we let it. Those who voted to Leave largely argued out of the irrational fears that immigration brings – but the anger you may feel toward Polish people ‘taking your job’ (problems which lie with the ethically broken financial systems and companies that facilitate them) or being the only ‘English’ person in a doctor’s waiting room are perceived slights: socially, there has been no bigger argument for Leave other than trying not to break an old way of life that simply doesn’t exist any more, and we’re all better off that it doesn’t. Sentences such as ‘having control of our own borders’ perpetuate ideas that should have been thrown out along with colonialism; both politically and socially, the meaning of the word ‘border’ has shifted toward something more pragmatic. What it certainly isn’t today is a symbol of Nationalism. Millennials, and the previous two generations, who voted Leave out of fear, prejudice, or whatever logical externalization they can find to validate voting Britain out of an integrated global society, need to look through their own dogma and see the UK in its true form: a place where, little by little, diversity has been rightfully embraced. I fear that we have now been taken a huge step backward in that regard. I fear that years down the line, the UK will have become like an insane asylum, sectioned off from the rest of the world while it lives the rest of its days in hysterical delusion. ‘We’ve got our country back!’ you can hear many shouting from the rooftops. No, you took it all for yourselves.

Back in 1973, Britain may have joined the EU in the first place only out of fear that it would financially collapse if it didn’t – but through the following years, which have been long and tough, being a member of the EU has made things so much easier for us as part of Europe in terms of personal freedom and political sway, and as a symbol of integration and community, I can’t think of a better one. And now that we are leaving, it may feel like we’re leaving all that behind: but please, don’t wallow in anger or despair. We don’t have to let it end here. We may be leaving the EU in only two years, but in ten, twenty, fifty – however long it takes – we will be a Progressive nation that doesn’t rule itself by fear or selfishness, and one that lives harmoniously alongside the EU. Because of people like you.

The necessary principles many of us saw in the EU still exist. They always have and always will –  from the first time someone saw bad in the world and decided to do something about. So do something about it. Engage in more conversation with those of opposing views; make sure you exercise your right to vote; and above all, raise your goddamn kids right. The UK we wish for, and could so easily have, may not exist for another fifty years; more, if we’re being more realistic. Our children may inherit a severed isle, but they could also inherit standards – the ideas that need to be communicated down the line. Because that’s what lives on: ideas. If you voted Leave out of genuine concerns over immigration as an economic factor, then more power to you. There’s a very solid debate to be had there. But if you voted Leave because you don’t like the thought that someone not British – again, my accident of birth argument comes beautifully into play here – then please, allow yourselves to find a small island somewhere and start your own society. I’ll come visit in a few years when your two minutes of hate is abolished.

Having read many of your views on social media today has been hugely encouraging – moving, in fact. That you all share such passionate views restores my faith, and now I remember why I either friended you or followed you in the first place. (Of course, you’re also part of the 18 – 25s who voted 65% for Remain). But you also sound broken, hopeless, and defeated – but let me tell you, that is not the case. Not. At. All. The fight for equality, for diversity, for doing the right thing never ends – not even after a seismic national change like leaving a global infrastructure we’ve been part of for years. Just because our country is leaving the EU doesn’t mean we have to leave behind its better principles. Really, it doesn’t change things that much – all that’s happened has been that Leave have come out on top of the Referendum through willpower. And those who voted Remain have only had their beliefs reaffirmed: that change needs to happen. We need to be the ones who instigate that change – by showing our friends, our family, our children how to interact with each other in a multicultural, accepting society – because we’ve already had the benefit of growing up in one ourselves. Politically, Britain is greyer than ever, but socially, it’s never been more charged; the Referendum pulled in the largest number of voters we’ve seen since 1992. A better society, through integration, is clearly achievable.

Today, we may be full of despair. Tomorrow, things may be different. Just keep fighting.

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Follow the editor @GaryGreenScreen


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About GaryGreenScreen

Freelance film critic.

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Gary Green: Freelance film critic.

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