Friday, 10 June 2016

The xenophobia referendum

As UK's EU membership referendum approaches, the campaigns in both Remain and Leave camps have not improved over the past few months...

True, Remain camp came forward with a series of figures and projections, echoing other not very independent (Institute of Fiscal Studies receives quite some EU funding under the bonnet...) or independent sources... These were constantly dismissed by the other camp, but one has to note: so far without any tangible contrary projections, figures, nor specific points on how and why the published pro-EU statistics are wrong...

Some headline figures in the Leave campaign have popped up, but ironically these were either completely wrong (the per-week "cost" of the EU, where not only the figure itself is vastly wrong, but also left out the cost vs. benefit calculations) or self-contradictory. On same day, two Leave campaign leaflets popped through the letterbox, one claimed twice the sum the other one stated in similar headline... It would be great if inside same camp, at least the tendentiously overstated figures could be agreed...

However, the biggest problem is that inevitably, as in every voting in recent years on any subject, the campaign has shifted toward chemically pure and reliable xenophobia.

The "take back control" (which in its utter naivety, considering basic geopolitical and economic factors any grown-up should be marginally aware of, is breathtaking) has been applied to... well, you guessed, UK borders.

Once again, isolationist and xenophobic emotions are running high. The immigration topic has completely discounted the minor facts that e.g. Switzerland, a non-EU member, had eye-watering levels of EU immigration due to the trade agreements' conditions...

Richard Dawkins has aptly stated that giving such decision to people is irresponsible, as voters don't understand economics (and many other things, if one looks at the debate). Therefore in his words, the Government is playing Russian roulette...

Even if one imagines UK "takes back control" of its borders, the Leave camp imagines this as a unilateral change... without giving any thought to the realities of just what conditions there will be when signing EU trade agreements... nor that there will be quite some reciprocity in the equation...

One has to recognise dogma as soon as rational discussion become impossible. Notice how any statement of truly common sense (e.g. without common free airspace, there will be years of uncertainties and costs passed on to customers, until possibly something is settled) are marked as scaremongering. Even someone stating the risks of both scenarios is marked as "tosh", "irresponsible"... Any figures that show costs of Brexit are immediately said to be part of, to quote, "Tory cover-up" and "conspiracy".

Thus, dogmas have surfaced again, and it is scary to see the level at which even blatant self-contradictions don't alert the Brexiters and make them think for a tiny moment. Some want "democracy" instead of proportionally represented Euro MPs - in a country where 24% of eligible voters have instated a government. A superb example of democracy...and again total ignorance of basic facts.

Cornwall received vast EU subsidies in absolutely everything, compared to virtually nothing from Westminster... and they, rightly, constantly complained on how Westminster ignored them government after government. One would not guess, based on logic, what UK region has the biggest concentration of anti-EU voters. Yep, it's Cornwall. A typical case where utter lack of self-awareness and local patriotism scores a huge own goal - but such is, as always, fervent nationalism and xenophobia.

The most brilliant quote heard in electronic media was that of a small business owner. This concentrated the most ignorance into the least possible English words... "We won two world wars, we will survive outside the EU".

Nobody questions we would survive outside the EU. However, to make a statement so fundamentally logically flawed (check what logical inference and/or induction is), so fundamentally ignorant of one's own historic facts and so devoid of any basic understanding of how one's own society and political structures work, is quite a superlative achievement.

One really cannot be a fan of EU overblown bureaucracy and the often utterly silly levels of regulations. However, the irony in the "take back control" demagogy is that it keeps occurring in a country that has its nuclear power plants owned by China, entire car industry owned by Germany, India, USA et al., its heavy industry in doldrums and owned by others, multi-national lobby circles pulling the strings in Westminster... the list goes on, let's not even drag into this equation the facts of the financial sector...

Throughout history, overblown emotions coupled with utter ignorance of basic facts have yielded interesting results. However, exactly those making references to history have shown no understanding of that history, nor the basics of the present.

Therefore, it really shall be an interesting referendum indeed, to state the obvious.


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