WHAT BREXIT MEANS FOR US. WHAT IT MEANS FOR ME, AND THIS BLOG
I’m at work, it’s past 5pm. I need to leave, and head to Trafalgar Square.
There’s a sit-in, it’s called “London still stays!” and it’s going to start soon.
The weather discourages me from going, and yet a peircing voice inside me is protesting: ‘You have to, it concerns you! It concerns you more than anyone else!’
Hence I find myself squeezed in the train on the Central line, then Bakerloo line, Charing Cross.
As soon as I take the stairs to get outside, I start seeing umbrellas and colours and cheerful faces.
It’s a lot of people, the vibe is great, someone’s dancing and someone else’s kissing and others are chanting. They are outspoken, angry but full of energy and smiles and it almost feels like they are all virtually hugging each other, finding relief in the awareness that many of us are in the same situation, equally worried about our future in a place that we learned to call home.
Here are some of the slogans they are chanting:
“Stop scapegoating European immigrants”
“Love not leave”
“No man is an island, no country by itself, we love Europe”
“Stop telling us to go home, we are home”
“Fuck you Boris”
“We are the 48%”
“Smash the borders”
“No human being is illegal”
“Born UK, Born EU”
“Independence for London”
“UKIP suck my balls!”
“And I, will always love EU”
“Your mistake, our future”
I thought two things, while I was there, chanting and following the impromptu march towards the Parliament.
First off, most people around me were under 30 years old. Angry, resolute, but also naive. Many were European migrants like myself, but many others looked or sounded British. I was so tempted to go and ask them: “Did you vote?”. I’m keeping thinking, if staying in the EU was so important for our generation, why was the youth turnout so low? It truly feels like even though many young people are deeply engaged in the political process, at least in the “social media bubble”, this does not automatically translate into exercising their right/duty to vote.
The second thing that struck me is the massive gap that separates this crowd from those, equally young, who are responsible for the acts of racism that are spreading “like arsenic in the water supply“.
Watch this. And this. And this.
Since the EU referendum more than 100 racist incidents have been reported. But racism is only one of the many problems. The massive fractures that emerged in the aftermath of Brexit are deeply worrying.
The first social fracture is that of age. British politics is now of the old, by the old, for the old. This, among other things, is causing a lot of intergenerational anger.
Then there’s the fracture within the parties. The Conservative and Labour Party both seem to be imploding.
Thirdly, there’s the fracture within Europe. The centrifugal forces in Europe might now accelerate. The populist nationalists in countries like Poland, Hungary and Slovakia are a threat for the unity of Europe. Just like Marine Le Pen in France, Islamophobe populist Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, Norbert Hofer in Austria and so on and so forth.
On top of that, Britain’s internal social divisions are deep.
Class was a key dividing line in the EU referendum. The level of education was another strong one. Then there’s the centre-periphery division, with prosperous London and Scotland voting by large margins to stay in, and working-class towns, seaside resorts and rural England heavily backing Leave.
The sociology of Brexit tells us a lot about the challenges faced by the UK in terms of social and political cohesion.
However, from a purely selfish point of view, the main concern that people like me have right now, is the “identity” issue.
My parents left Egypt decades ago, because Italy represented the chance of a better life. They were not desperate or reckless. They were simply adventurous, determined to achieve social mobility, passionate about the world and in a way unconscious pioneers of multiculturalism.
Thirty years later, it was my turn to take the same decision. I left Italy because I was looking for opportunities. Because I was looking for meritocracy. Because I wanted to study good journalism, and to make good journalism. I left Italy because after working for years to promote interculturalism, I couldn’t understand why Islamophobia was still rocketing, parochialism was rife and Milan still did not have a mosque.
I left Italy because being brown, Muslim and cosmopolitan started to feel like a burden.
And now, here I am. In a city, London, that I’ve been calling home for the past 4 years.
Proud of my European identity. In the kind of Europe I love, you can be Catholic, Muslim or an atheist: it doesn’t make any difference.
You can have two or three different passports, travel and work and love in 28 different countries, exchange ideas, know-how, leave your comfort zone, challenge yourself, promote solidarity, be human to refugees, care about the rest of the world and maybe suggest a different narrative of globalization, one where EU supranational solidarity can rescue Greece without humiliating it, deal with Mediterranean countries without that unfair sense of superiority, and tackle the challenge of radicalization of young European muslims in a more organized way.
This was my dream, and clearly Brexit contradicts it.
This blog is going to be my catharsis. Writing will make me feel better. Sharing photos and videos, and even my journalistic work, is my way of opening up at a time when so many seem to be keeping to themselves.
I urge my friends to share my posts, my readers to read my blog, and absolve me for switching from English to Italian according to the content, the mood and the needs. Forgive me if I make any mistakes, correct me, and above all engage in a conversation with me.