In this immediate post-Brexit environment, you are reassuring the wrong people.
At a time when 17 and a half million Britons just made one final attempt to successfully bring it home to you that they, rightly or wrongly but certainly sincerely, feel unwelcome in their communities and their country, you are reacting by reassuring the rest of the world that they are unhesitatingly welcome. You are showing continued, and promising more, love and unity and tolerance and open-mindedness to those to whom you have rightly never ceased to show or promise otherwise: you need to extend it now, urgently and more so, to those to whom you have never sincerely tried to extend it to. It is not at all your fault that this is the situation for those people, but it has always been and apparently always will be (despite my hope that people would finally realise something important with a Leave result that they didn’t have a chance of realising with a Remain) exacerbated by a belligerence regarding the necessity of chasing multiculturalism and globalisation without so much as a significant pause or honestly considered counter-argument. In Britain and in Europe there has been a growing and increasingly unstable undercurrent of tension, culture-clash, feelings of abandonment and disrespect, the reinforcement of racism and xenophobia, and impending chaos that Brexit has not suddenly brought out of nowhere. Instead it has given us a chance to confront and solve it that Remain would never have given. The path of Remain would likely have been to ignore this until the point of destruction. Don’t, with your reaction, rhetoric, and action going forward, let the Leave path, optimism generating in me at least, turn out to be just more of the same.
“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
– Malcolm X
I’ve seen a few shares of the above quote as a way of saying that anti-immigration and pro-British xenophobia has been stoked and encouraged by, for example, UKIP, when in fact multiculturalism is entirely benign and wonderful. And that wouldn’t be wrong, except, importantly, for the final bit. Consider another angle in the relevance of that quote: if you’re not careful, the media will have you (liberal, multicultural, tolerant youth) hating the people who are being oppressed (white Britons never given any reason or evidence to trust the EU or multiculturalism), and loving the people (other liberal, multicultural, tolerant youth from Britain or abroad) who are doing the (social) oppressing.
If leftist elitism and gentrification (among other things) had not resulted in a UK where poorer people, working and benefit classes, lacked both access to and desire for and the money and time to dedicate to education, and were ignored, scoffed at, and brushed off and demonised by a liberal, educated, affluent class of people who most definitely have a right to a say, but seem to think that their vote is worth intrinsically more in a democracy than those who are older or poorer than they are, then the result may have been different and Leavers may have had confidence in the belief that voting Remain will be good for them. They might have understood their EU benefits, better voiced to a better audience their genuine EU concerns, and they might have felt that their EU concerns were being taken into account. This has been a long time coming, and decades of ignoring large swathes of society and expecting them to simply blindly accept multiculturalism and centralised government without giving them a chance, without engaging, is why half the UK just voted to leave. The Leave and Remain campaigns were largely atrocious in similar and different ways, and I thoroughly respect the Leave voters, who people are currently continuing to demonise, for taking this opportunity to assert their right to be treated not as some inherently stupid racist underclass, but a valid and valuable part of this country. Unfortunately only a move with real economic risk looked likely to make that happen.
As much as I am one and love many of them, supposedly liberal, relatively affluent, middle-class, educated, twenty-something year olds need to realise that they are not the only people who count, they are not the only people living in this world, their opinions do not count for more than those who are younger or older, who are poorer or richer, who are conservative or republican, who are different in mind and class and situation, and that important notion has rightly been pointed out by the people who will not be told, by those who have an easier life and a greater knowledge base by accident of birth, to shut up or join in. The shock of the rude awakening to the notion that your echo chamber, though it may at times contain many good ideas, does not dictate to anybody but you is apparent. If it feels like I am heavily demonising youth, liberals, or the middle-class: I am not trying to, and to react that way would be to ignore the point. Our situation pre- and post- Thursday was and is a failure on the part of just about everybody in myriad ways over a long period of time. The EU was not the only thing to blame. But a significant portion of the Brexit reaction just clearly demonstrates how profoundly an important group of people are still failing to understand the problem.
Previously only certain people had something good going and the realistic prospect of more of it; now, if we’re brave, honest, cautious, and different, we all can.