An election approaches in Britain.

The US looks back at its own choices.

Politics and opinions fill papers and posts and ears, some articulate, others mere slogans and gritted teeth. No matter, voters make up their own minds and are entitled to their own perspective.

Regardless of where they live.

A disturbing grumble popped up this week via various sources.

  1. “You don’t live here so shut up.”
  2. “Expats think they are so superior.”
  3. “Why should people living abroad tell us what to do?”

I have a view on every one of these questions, as a tax-paying, voluntary National Insurance contributor, with some family members dependent on the NHS/Social Services and an emotional investment in the country of my birth.

But this is not about me.

Nor is it about the bias peddled by the media.

I want to know why some of the most articulate and passionate perspectives on America I’ve read come from people living in Europe. British foreign and domestic policy is subjected to the sharpest analysis from intelligent minds in Romania, Sweden, Canada, Germany and Scotland.

So here are a few questions:

  1. If someone no longer lives in her/his home country, does that negate that person’s opinion on domestic politics?
  2. Is political opinion the exclusive domain of those who live under its effects?
  3. Should a person committed to living in another country apply for voting rights there and leave the homeland to itself?
  4. Do expatriates have stronger views on how a government might improve having seen other more/less effective examples?
  5. What kind of parallels are there between immigrants and emigrants? Why is there a resentment of both incomers and outgoers?

I’m really curious to hear your thoughts.

Next week, I’ll be back to boring you about my books.

 

 

 

 

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A phenomenon is scaring me.

No, not just SCROTUS, although he’s a big part of it.

There’s a peculiar anti-word, anti-thought movement spreading through our societies, which opposes reason and embraces slogan. Nothing new there, a blunt cudgel of opinion-bashing has its historical precedents.

Which should be terrifying by example. I’m not telling you where to look. I don’t need to.

Go check a random oppressive regime. How far down the list do you find ‘silence the thinkers’?

Here’s a mini test:

Name three regimes whose policy was to slaughter intellectuals.

Name three governments who imprison opponents without trial.

Name three countries which spread misinformation and propaganda to sway their population into supporting their own agenda.

(Hint: you probably live in one and this is why we need a free press, even if some of them are gits.)

One of the scariest phrases I heard was Michael Gove’s comment during the Brexit campaign: “Oh I think people have had enough of experts”.

These inexpert, self-interested campaigners for anything that will get them up the career ladder speak for ‘The People’. One of their base tools is arguing against argument. It’s the equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting your own position over and over until ‘The People’ (or ‘Folks’ if you want the current Imbecile-in-the-White-House version) can repeat it verbatim.

This is a crass, patronising assumption on every level.

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Firstly, ‘The People’ enjoy argument, rationale or reason. Engaging and discussing issues in person often leads to a less fossilised position. Online is a different matter. Comment is as dehumanising, reductive and debasing as a scrawled cartoon of a bear shitting in the woods. But it still works. Make us yell at each other and we take our eye off the argument. Sit us in a bar to chat and it’s a whole different game.

Secondly, simple words – make, great, take, ours, us, we, sad, bigly(?), danger, wall – is a reductive and banal way to communicate. Joined-up thinking requires a sense of cause and effect. People – yes, even ‘The People’ – are aware the credit crunch and subsequent drain on the working and middle-class was not due to immigration, fake news or or the liberal elite, but rampant pocket-lining by the very same people who tell you ‘You Ne-ver Had It So Good’. (One syllable at a time, folks.)

Thirdly, attacking people who dare to show some more articulacy than bellowing ‘Lock her up!” are derided for being elitist, intellectual and not of ‘The People’. It’s much more difficult to reduce the problems inherent in destabilising the EU to a tidy ALL CAPS phrase on a banner.

Lastly, how highly do you rate your supporters when you stand up in front of them and lie? Lie loudly, repeatedly and with bombast in the conviction they will believe it. If this is your methodology, your rationale must be that ‘The People’ are truly stupid.

We are not. You, me, all of us will be remembered by our thoughts, our words and our actions.

In a time like this, words are the bridge between thought and action.

They could not be more vital.

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Back in February, tramping through knee-deep snow, a friend said something which surprised me.

Nationalism is a force of destruction.

No, I argued. Nationalism is a force for unity and joy.

Love, loyalty and celebration.

Admittedly, I was only thinking of the streets of Cardiff outside the Millennium Stadium after Wales had just won. The joy, the laughter, the hugs and happiness at what our tiny, brave, beautiful country just achieved. “Way-els, Way-els, Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi…”

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Wales won last night.

Normally I’d be waving flags and cheering and gently teasing all my non-Welsh friends. But yesterday, displays of nationalism left a very bad taste.

You may not have heard about the UK referendum. Perhaps you’ve got a few problems in your own backyard and couldn’t give a toss how the British government’s petty in-fighting gambled with the future of the country and lost.

There’s a stupid six-letter word to describe this, but made-up, fallacious, simplistic, emotion-over-logic, reductionist bullshit is what got us thus far so I refuse to use it.

Let’s leave aside the likely break-up of the (dis)United Kingdom, campaign promises which were nothing more than empty slogans, the collapse of both leading governmental parties, international economic consequences, the impact on the EU’s geo-political security and the immediate uncertainty around who is responsible for clearing up this pile of political vomit.

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The fact is the damage is done.

The British public is polarised, enraged, divided and shocked by its own behaviour. Much like the Scottish independence referendum, the hate and vitriol stirred up did not disappear after the decision.

The fury at ‘the other side’ continues with ever more extremist and personal attacks, retreating into its own media outlets and sticking its fingers into its ears as to anything which puts a balanced view.

Political parties practise self-defense/immolation while the electorate, whichever way they may have voted, says…

Oh Holy Shit.

At the heart of this is nationalism.

A deluded belief: absolutely fine on our own, thanks very much, never needed anyone’s help before, you need us more than we need you, our superiority complex has never let us down yet.

Nationalism is not a force solely of destruction or unity. It can be both. But it is certainly emotional and heartfelt, which can be used for positive, inclusive, joyous means or the exact opposite.

Much as I am grieving over Britain’s colossal political cock-up, I still have faith in (most of) its people. Our language, our culture, our cuisine, our infrastructure, our openness and our economy depend on the ability to absorb and embrace the rest of the world.

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Britain is not the sum of its politicians.

It’s the sum of its people.

And we are so much better than this.

So, anyone got a plan?

 

Thanks to JD Lewis for all these beautiful images. Check out more of her work here.