Tag Archives: Brexit

A year of challenges

World HandsSo 2016 isn’t quite working out the way I had planned – not even remotely close!

On a personal level, I’ve had to deal with my brother disappearing off the face of the earth – 5 months now since anyone saw or heard anything of him – and a totally unexpected health issue of my own. I’m not out of the woods yet – several months of treatment still to come – but I’m feeling fit and positive and thinking about how I can best make use of my time while I’m not able to be out and about a lot.

And what do I love to do? Yes, learn languages – and I don’t need to be out and about for that, thanks to the amazing Internet. I just have to discipline myself to concentrate on one language and stop flitting from one to another like the proverbial Schmetterling  …. yes, Deutsch it is for now. I keep letting it slide, so no excuses! Time to ramp it up a notch and organise some over-the-internet conversations.

But on a non-personal level, what a mess 2016 is turning out to be.

As if the Brexit shambles weren’t enough, we now have the prospect of the government of one of the most powerful countries on the earth being headed by Donald Trump. I can’t really believe it could come to pass, that so many decent, intelligent human beings could vote for such an ignorant, bigoted man, but then I didn’t believe so many people here would want to turn their back on Europe either, and that happened.

I was reading a statement by Stephen Hawking earlier this week, that the attitude that Brexit exemplifies could lead to the end of the humanity. A bit drastic, you might think, but I get where he’s coming from. Brexit and Trump supporters are not dissimilar in their “I’m all right, Jack” attitude. Neighbouring countries are having problems? Well, let’s just pull up the drawbridge, or build a wall, and pretend they are nothing to do with us.

The world is facing global issues on a scale it has never faced before. Human beings are changing the environment to such an extent that we are slowly making our planet uninhabitable. Selfish, bigoted, “I’m right and the rest of you are all wrong” attitudes are dominating in many places of the world.

The inward-looking attitudes we see portrayed by Brexit and Trump are reflections of what is happening on a more violent scale in many other places, leading to a global refugee problem. In the past countries like the US and the UK were seen as safe havens, places where traumatized families could start again and work hard to build their lives and contribute to their new country. Not any more. Sadly, too many doors are being shut in their faces. Where are they to go?

We can only solve global issues by working together. We need to be cooperating, communicating, supporting each other, finding solutions together. If we don’t, Stephen Hawking’s prediction could well come true, and it may be the only way that the world will be saved. Human beings may no longer be around to see it, and it might take a very long while for the nuclear radiation to die down, but eventually the planet will recover. It just might not have any people on it.

Tschüß.

 

Thoughts on Brexit

Europe

Although I consider myself originally a Kiwi, I spent many, many years in Australia. I lived in major cities like Sydney and Perth, and I lived in small, remote mining communities like Weipa. What I observed everywhere was that there appeared to be at least three parallel societies within the country as a whole.

There was a vibrant, multicultural, mostly born overseas, group of people that rejoiced in their diversity and genuinely enjoyed being together, celebrating each other’s festivals and feeling part of a wider international community. It was a delight to sit around a dinner table and discover that almost everyone there had been born in a different country, adding their own unique cultural background to the mix. Our ‘pot luck’ meals were fantastic! That was MY Australia.

Then there was a group that wanted to turn the clock back – to return to the White Australia policy of the past, to harden their hearts and deny compassion to desperate people fleeing unconscionable violence in their homelands, a group that were suspicious of anyone slightly different, that wanted to obliterate any cultural differences and insist on uniformity based on their own views. They were vociferous in their intolerance, and this was the group that the politicians sought to woo whenever it came to elections, pandering to racist tendencies and narrow minded attitudes. These people did not represent my Australia and sickened me.

The third parallel society was that of the indigenous people who struggle to have a voice and are mostly pushed into the shadows. They have an incredibly long and proud history, and I sincerely hope they will one day also have a future they can be proud of, though sadly I can’t see it happening any time soon.

Geographically, Australia lies off the shores of Asia. When Australians want to go on holiday, they buy a plane ticket and off they go – to Bali, to Malaysia, to Thailand – and all they have to worry about is what clothes to pack and how much dutyfree they can bring back.

When citizens of those Asian countries want to visit Australia though, it’s not so simple. My brother has a Thai partner who has to jump through hoops if she wants to visit him in Australia – a trip to the Embassy, showing all her bank account and business details, paying a significant sum for a visa, all under the scrutiny of a suspicious Immigration official who doubts everything she says. What gives Australians the right to travel freely to their neighbouring countries, while citizens of those countries are denied reciprocal rights?

So where am I going with this?

Well, one of the reasons I moved to Wales was that it was part of Europe. I saw it as a place that was proud of its own history, culture and language but was also proud to take its place amongst a group of neighbouring nations that were intent on moving closer together and building mutual respect and consideration.

To me the European Union represents the relationship that Australia should be having with its neighbours. Yes, it’s not perfect and there are obvious areas of bureaucracy that need to be streamlined and sorted out, but we should be doing that for the benefit of all, not just for the benefit of the UK.

I cringed every time I read that the UK was asking for special consideration and to be different to everyone else. Why? The whole focus of the Leave campaign seemed to be what do WE get out of it? It was reflecting the attitude prevalent in the second group of Australians mentioned above.

Well, I’m sorry, but I tend to look at it the other way round.

What can we contribute that will lead to an increased benefit for all? How can we add our skills and create a more unified and stable region, while encouraging and supporting diversity like the myriad of minority languages that exist within the member countries? How can we, as a group of diverse nations, be a shining example to the rest of the world showing that differences can be overcome and we can all work together for the better good?

I don’t know what the next few months hold, but I feel a sense of great sadness. Politicians with their own agenda have yet again manipulated large numbers of people by appealing to their basest instincts and feeding them misinformation. Welsh voters have had facts about the real effect on Wales totally obliterated by the hysteria in some of the English press. Our politicans have let us down by not making sure that all Welsh people made a decision based on accurate information, not emotional harping back to some glorious imagined past.

“Give us our country back?” – when, in the last 500 years, did Wales actually belong to the Welsh?