Britexit and Bigotry

The recent vote by the British people to withdraw from the European Union is making the headlines and has the international community abuzz. The “experts” pretty much agree that the major factor behind the vote is the increasing fear of foreign people coming into Britain. Isolationism by any other name is bigotry.

Bigotry, like the fear that fuels it, stems from ignorance and there are a number of causal factors that seem to be operating not only in Great Britain but in the United States as well — who, it is said, has just passed the mantle of the stupidest people on earth to the British. I have commented in numerous posts about the possible causes of this ignorance, to wit, the shift in news reporting toward entertainment and the deterioration of the school system. Interestingly enough the latter has been noted in Britain as well in the United States where both countries, in hot pursuit of “vocational education,” have fallen behind other “developed” nations in the intellectual skills of those who graduate from their schools.

F.D.R. famously said that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. This is a wise and even a profound comment and was timely indeed. But it suggests what is impossible, namely that we can simply switch off fear like we would a light switch. Fear is a powerful emotion and it is fostered at this time by the entertainment industry and the schools — the former for sensationalizing every item of “news” and the latter from failing to make their students more aware and critical of what is going on around them.

But then, the schools have been forced to fill the vacuum resulting from the breakdown of families and the lack of any significant social role played by the Church. The schools, as a result, have for some time now been asked to raise our children while at the same time they are supposed to educate them. Both of these jobs are impossible — as Freud once suggested — but we demand it of our teachers none the less (while we pay them less than a living wage).

In a word, the only way to root out bigotry is through education, the acquisition of information (not misinformation) and the honing of critical thinking skills. Unless we as a nation determine that this is of major importance and begin to shift some of the billions of dollars now spent on “defense” into education and, at the same time, demand of the news media that they report facts and not more misinformation, that they not feed the fires of fear, we can expect to go the way of Great Britain.

Clearly, as shown by the success of a bigot like Donald Trump,  a responsive chord has been struck in the hearts (not the minds) of a great many Americans to build a wall and keep “foreigners” and “immigrants” out of this country. The very success of Donald Trump, as I have noted in the past, is testimony to the fact that our education system is failing and our entertainment industry has taken over the news media. We are flooded with misinformation half-truths, blatant falsehoods, and myths all disguised as the truth. And growing numbers of people don’t know how to sift through the trash and pick out what is worth knowing.

The result of all this is the fear that is almost palpable in this country and which was most evident in Britain in the recent vote. We fear that which we do not know. If we hear a noise in the other room and we know it isn’t the cat who is sleeping quietly beside us; we are afraid because we don’t know what is making the noise. Ignorance is at the core of fear.

Unless we address the root cause of this fear it makes no sense to talk about “having no fear.” We must gain control of our own minds and understand that those who differ from us do not really differ so much. We are all human and we are all in this together. Bigotry has no place at the table — except in the home of people like Donald Trump who simply don’t know any better.

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14 thoughts on “Britexit and Bigotry

  1. Unfortunately and ironically, it is the older generations that voted to leave, while the young overwhelmingly voted to “remain.” The 18-24 group voted 64 percent to remain, those 65 and older voted 58 percent to leave.

    Yet, the results are tied to education and economic fear (as well, certainly, as unfounded immigration fear). Exit polling and pre-election polling showed that those who wanted to leave the EU largely came from blue-collar areas, and among voters with lower levels of education, income and job status. This is from the Guardian: “Wandsworth, Richmond upon Thames, and Cambridge, where around half of the population has a higher education qualification, all gave over two-thirds of their votes to remain. Just 14.2% have an equivalent qualification in the Norfolk seaside town of Great Yarmouth, which delivered one of the biggest leave votes of 71.5%.”

    In a way, it almost seems as if there’s a need to retro-fit the education and mindset of folks my age and older — not only about the EU and immigrants, but perhaps to offer new job-training, jobs-requiring-technology skills, to shore up their economic and job-prospect insecurities. Like some of the ignorant in America who complain that Mexican immigrants are taking jobs away from Americans — a truly ridiculous statement, since many of the new arrivals do the menial, messy work Americans long ago swore off — it seems some of the Brits are reacting through uniformed fear and bigotry.

    The young are really riled up about the outcome, and hopefully may succeed in bringing up a second vote on the exit. Yet, even if a second chance were to pass, it would not solve the fear that persists among the working class/older/lower-education voters. In a way, if they’re doing nothing else — and critics, of course say they aren’t — our schools are teaching today’s kids to be more tolerant, open-minded about other cultures, other races, that difference is OK. How can we reach those already out of school, stuck in low-end jobs, angry at finding so many doors to their future closed? Trump’s reaching them, but not in a healthy way.

    Lessons for us to consider here, too.

    • Thanks for the good comment, Dana. My thesis still stands: it’s about education and the lack of accurate reporting. I do not believe the younger set are better educated than their elders; education in England and the USA have been slipping for at least two generations. It has never been what it should be. That’s a part of the problem. But it never will be as long as we all insist that we are on the right track.

      • Absolutely, your thesis stands, Hugh. The flaws in education and the economic problems interested potently on the Brexit vote — not only in the vote results, but in the willful, angry swallowing of the hateful, bigoted lies spoken by politicians and nationalist groups (often unchecked by broadcast media if it serves ratings). The lack of education tracks with the low- income workers who violet to leave.

        What I was urging is a societal push to target the groups where fear resides the most, educate them, lead them to understand their fears are unfounded and that history repeatedly tells us that those who go the path of Trump, the Leave-voters, the growing European nationalist parties and Isis, too, for that matter, ALWAYS ends in disaster and their failure.

        This is a powerful short speech that goes to many of both our points: education on matters of bigotry, violence and fear has to target wide swaths and has to be led by all of us who believe in civility, democracy, at schools, work places, home, blogs. What is very interesting, and a comment ion the failure of so many institutions, is that the speech is made by a comic. He turns serious, does what lawmakers, community leaders, educators have failed to do: tell the hard truths and stand up to money and power. It is impressive, but a sad day when a comic is a wiser, more courageous, leader than those whose jobs are to lead.

        But, with the world like it is, maybe it is him and bloggers like you who should take over stage.

      • Thanks for the link and the good comments. I do think you are right and we need to stress both education and job training in order to help those people rise economically and intellectually. But I would only add that “leading them to understand” must not take the form of indoctrination, it must focus on developing critical thinking skills so those people can figure things out for themselves without someone else telling them what to think.

  2. Hugh, as I said on my comment this morning, bigotry played a role, but there is a financial element to it as well. The sad part, the issue is very subtle and while there are financial concerns that are real by the Leave group, the overwhelming financials are in favor of remaining as part of the EU. The reaction of global markets and degrading of the pound are indicative of this. Fewer boundaries to trade, employment and opportunities create growth and additive value.

    To your point, the Leave campaign is a lot like Trump’s here to oversimplify and blame groups of people for more holistic problems. The decline in the US middle class and elsewhere is due to technology improvements, offshoring, outsourcing, downsizing, rightsizing and suppressed wages. It should be noted the lessening power of unions in the US has played a role as well.

    Yet, bigotry and fear sell, which is Trump’s genius. The fact this man has advertised himself as the champion of the working class is the biggest con job I have ever witnessed. He has exploited people for years and is doing it now. So, just because he is a consummate sales person and can use turmoil to sell, he is the last person to be in charge of addressing it.

    This was a subplot as well in the Leave movement, as the group the recent killer of the MP swore allegiance to a group who uses bigotry as their main argument. The Muslim of Mayor of London had to withstand bigoted and racist articles perpetuated by leaders of this subset.

    I hope the UK can find a way to reconsider this, especially with Scotland discussing a new referendum and Northern Ireland likely to follow. Good post, Keith

    • I do hope England reconsiders as well. I would agree with both you and Dana that the problem is definitely about money as well as the bigotry that is rampant win both countries. But, properly pursued education and jobs are linked. The well educated can get the good jobs and grow in them and those jobs generally pay well.

      • Good point. I would add that blockers to change have prevented new job training. Easy example here is the coal industry demise has been quite noticeable for at least six or seven years maybe more. Why has there not been more effort and money to retrain folks. Trump told coal miners those jobs are coming back. Sanders told them they were not and we need to offer money and retraining. Who is misleading these folks?

  3. The barbarians are ALWAYS at the gates and the only societal entity that keeps them outside the gates is public education! Mr. Shakespeare had something to say about that. See Henry VI, Part 2, Act 4, Scene 7!

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