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Saturday, June 25, 2016


Further dumb thoughts of mine on Brexit adapted from an exchange in the Moot last night:
Britain was of course stupid to Leave (maybe maybe maybe Parliament or even the Scottish Parliament will find some workaround to put a stop to it still?) and Britain should be made to pay when they come crawling back, come what may. They were already half-assed members, enjoying benefits of EU membership but with all sorts of carve-outs insulating them from EU responsibilities and still whining and insulting and mucking things up all the while. One hopes there will be less toleration of that nonsense when Britain comes back like Oliver with its gruel bowl in hand begging for more.
You know, neoliberal and awful though the EU is, and yes of course it is, it is less so than Britain to my eyes -- consider the greater, not adequate but greater, progressivity of taxation and the more ample social supports in so many of its member states, for example. I know euro-bureaucratization is a drag and even tyrannical at worst, but to see that to the exclusion of seeing that implementation of environmental, health, education, labor, safety standards and civil liberties is actually a rare, precious, fragile emancipatory triumph is much more a blindness than an insight.
Brexit is also, of course, one more wake up call in a decade of wake-up calls to Europe that austerity threatens its stability and exacerbates dangerous right-wing political formations (in France, the Netherlands, Italy...) and one would hope they really do wake up this time and finally change course in consequence: especially since austerity hasn't delivered on its promises otherwise anyway. Yanis Varoufakis is someone who is advocating noisily right now for the left remaining in the EU as indispensable to any efforts to radically democratize European politics from within, a position with the broad contours of which I agree, whatever my specific disagreements and distaste for the digirati-broleftist Assange-to-Zizek tinge of his milieu (check out the DiEM25 Manifesto, you'll see what I mean, goodish and illish).
Were the EU to make some adjustments away from neoliberalism and toward democratization (more transparency and accountability in governance processes, more shared public investment in sustainable infrastructure and industry rather than mortgages and financial instruments) then the demands it would be in a position to make upon a rapidly marginalized radically under-performing Britain yearning for Bre-Entry would be all the more welcome. The nonsense of the whole notion of a monetary union without a fiscal union might be closer to a solution, for one thing. Reversing current crazy conspicuous wealth concentration even a little bit in Europe, coupled with an effective PR campaign shifting from gross xenophobic politics onto climate threat politics, say, would be worthy work for all the bright brittle eurocrats to earn their salaries with, if you ask me. Many prominent austerians are inflicted with "the anglo disease" and a temporary loss of Britain could be an occasion facilitating such a course correction. A fellow can dream. 
You ask: "Whose terms should be more demanding, the Brits' or the Eurocrats'?" I say Europeans should be more demanding of Europe, and Europe should be more demanding when Britain tries to crawl out of the hole they've dug. Till then, one hopes the left takes up this opportunity to push for our agenda (that agenda in a phrase? sustainable accountable equity-in-diversity) as the right most certainly will do. But I fear the usual inertial professionals (well-meaning and otherwise) looking to cash in while the usual passionate and righteous activists squander the moment in purity cabaret will either break our hearts or muddle through according to something like an historical coin toss.
I'm a dumb American, of course, so what do I know about Europe? It isn't modesty but honesty when I say the obvious -- I'm an interested but inept outside observer, anybody is better to ask about this stuff than me. In this moment I will say the US looks much better off: We went for inadequate but real stimulus not austerity in 2008 despite the GOP and have stuck to weak tea variations of the same. The Obama coalition outnumbers our dim dupe racists providing better chances for comparatively sane national outcomes. The American version of Brexit is old straight white bigots dying of old age in an ever more diverse and secular society. If HRC wins -- blah blah monster blah blah evil blah blah notwithstanding -- the Supreme Court may become reliably liberal till 2050, corrections to jerrymandering if Dems stay organized for the midterms may lead to Congressional representation in line with actual voting results, and then quite a lot can change quite quickly after years and years of too little changing too little (the first years of the Obama administration provide a narrow glimpse of the pragmatic possibilities): We can have more public investment, more progressive taxes, sustainability and harm-reduction policy-making can be prioritized and yield virtuous circles, all the while the country approaches majority-minority diversity and then this ridiculously lucky stupid criminal pack of infants get yet another shot at blowing our chance to do some good in the world.


AGD said...

Yeah, thanks mate. As one of the eggs who'll be part of the delicious hope-omelette you're making, it'd be appreciated if you maybe held off whistling quite so callously. This was a bad result, a very bad one indeed; the referendum campaign was shameful, and now the dog whistles have been put away for outright abuse because our professional political class refused to act like adults. The campaign has been pure vitriol peppered with falsehood and actual Nazi imagery. I have friends and colleagues from across the EU who are now terrified and rightly so.

Things will be even worse if, as suspected, the EU can then force compliance with its rules as a price for access to the market. The same people now openly saying racist things on the bus won't settle for just that once they realise that the racist fantasy for which they voted won't even be possible. Since this was a backlash against a feeling of disconnection in the face of austerity, further economic damage and a sense of "foreigners being imposed on us" is only going to make things worse.

As regards the 'old, white and dying' thing: for us this was probably the last of the permanent ways for that generation to remorselessly screw the young.

But it's not all wasted effort, now: you got to write a nasty little punitive revenge fantasy without thinking about who the punitive effects would actually fall on, and you got to throw around the usual categories without thinking.

Dale Carrico said...

I think you've got actual enemies to organize against.

AGD said...

Yes, sorry, you're right. Just a bit shocking to read something like that at a usually-reliable place.

Dale Carrico said...

Since we seem to agree that the referendum was terrible, the xenophobia it unleashed horrific, the result ruinous I'm not sure what we disagree about in all this. I do think the EU must democratize else disintegrate and that its failure would be a catastrophe for the world and I would like to think Brexit could be an occasion for a shift toward such politics rather than simply the occasion for right-wing resurgence it looks like. Are you quite sure you aren't being shocked by the reaction of someone who was shocked, and reading as hopeful someone who is actually rather scared?

AGD said...

No doubt that (shock impairing reading) is a factor and as you say, we're not really disagreeing about those facts.

But the "come crawling back" and Dickensian imagery is not perhaps entirely attentive here to who will be abject and in what ways that abjection is going to manifest. The 'purity cabaret' comment also seems to be misguided, given that the Parliamentary Labour Party is this very minute avoiding dealing with things like grown-ups so that it can focus on undoing the accidental election of a soft social democrat as leader. The only purity on display is dedicated to "electability", i.e. following the very same neoliberal stuff and ignoring the substantial (misguided?) support for an alternative as expressed in the leadership election. That's the squandering that's happening right now, and sadly that's the only place there seems to be any energy.

Am I over-reacting to some very minor rhetorical points? Yes, absolutely. That I'm sure about.

Dale Carrico said...

Fair enough, especially about the optics of Oliver's begging bowl given its the blameless and precarious who, as always, will be made to suffer the most (Dickens' point after all). The context for the "purity cabaret" comment is that I have been rather flabbergasted to discover many allies/congenial writers who have already flabbergasted me repeatedly lately by assuming a fauxvolutionary vantage from which they cannot distinguish Trump from Clinton also seem all too often from that vantage unable to distinguish Leave from Remain. Every one of them is in the States, like me, and not the UK.

PS: I too am shaking my head at the Shadow Cabinet shenanigans, the parochialism of the Blairite faction/vestige in Labour, and both hope and think Corbyn will prevail -- agree this looks to be left squandering of the occasion for democratization of the very kind I said I feared. Maybe Scotland Leaving to join the EU and Tories leaving to join UKIP will compensate Labour disarray a bit? As I said in the original post -- I really am an ignoramus looking on in bewilderment, I don't know nearly enough to say anything insightful, my take is impressionistic except to say those drawing analogies to the States -- Leave/Trump, Corbyn/Sanders seem to me to be choosing heat over light.

AGD said...

Huh, I've heard leftist grumbles of the form "Clinton is as bad as Trump', but not coinciding with 'remain or leave, it's all the same'. Or maybe I tuned them out? Probably the referendum was just so polarising it wasn't possible to find someone who had the energy to be agnostic on both things at once.

Your hope p.s. is shared, but your optimism not—Parl.Lab. have been particularly ill-disposed to giving Corbyn a clean run from the beginning. Labour disarray is the whole of the news cycle, at least this weekend, so they've really decided to burn things down at the worst possible point. The Scotland/EU and Northern Ireland/who-even-knows parts of the scenario are baffling. Those are things that should rally have been through through, give that devolution is tethered to some EU stuff I don't quite understand but the "professionals" really should. I think the Conservative and Unionist Party might have actually shredded the union itself, even if nobody deliberately adds to that particular bonfire.

Agree with your heat/light point. Analogies are really comforting, though, like all good traps.

+6 points for "shenanigans".

Dale Carrico said...

Hey, you know I'm quite the shenaniguy.