Jun 26, 2016

Brexit: Where We Are

Serafim is tired of scapegoating, dehumanisation, and the legitimisation of xenophobia and racism #CatsAgainstBrexit
I didn’t get a vote in last week’s referendum, but at least I contributed with a Cats Against Brexit photo. Poor Serafim is more tired than ever now.

I’m not going to apologise for yet another post about politics: for years now this blog has made it patently obvious that I don’t believe in a stark division between politics and life — or, for that matter, between literature, politics and life. But I wish, I dearly wish, that I could be writing about something else today. I can’t, though — not when this is the most devastating political event of my lifetime. Not when the possibility that this will ruin the life I’ve built seems all too real from where I’m standing. At some point last week I said I couldn’t wait for this to be over. How wrong I was. I’ve spent the last few days crying into cups of tea, venting on Twitter, and reading Adrienne Rich. It’s all I can do.

So, this is where we are:

  • Far Right Watch reports a 540% increase in incidents of racial hate speech and malicious communications in 36 hours, with an official statement to come in the next few days. The PostRefRacism Twitter account has been compiling reports of such incidents informally; other compilations, such as this one, are absolutely chilling to look at.

  • I don’t entirely disagree with the people who are pointing out that it’s not so much that every single one of the 52% of Leave voters will start harassing foreigners and racial minorities on the streets, but that the people likely to do so now believe that 52% of voters are on their side, and have been emboldened by this belief. Having said that, I also agree with whoever was saying that splitting hairs between actual racists/xenophobes and people willing to align themselves with them for political gain is utterly beside the point right now (apologies for not sourcing this properly; I’ve read too much these past few days and can’t remember what was where). The consequences are the same.

    I know this is difficult to react to and I completely trust that everyone I know means well, but if I have one request it’s this: please don’t say social media is distorting our perception; please don’t urge people to remember not everyone hates them. We know that, but we also know that this is happening. We need it to be made visible; we need our sense of reality not to be undermined. We need to be able to talk about it. Silence and isolation will get us nowhere.

  • “People voted Leave for many reasons”: and yet.

  • Throughout this whole process, I’ve been trying very hard not to be furious with people who ultimately want the same things as me — a fairer, more equal world where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. At the start of the Leave and Remain campaigns, I talked about feeling thrown under the bus by Lexit (left-wing exit) campaigners, who seemed willing to sacrifice the safety of immigrants like me for the sake of — what? A sense of ideological purity, maybe? Nearly everyone I know online changed their position after the brutal murder of Jo Cox at the hands of a fascist, when what we had been saying became undeniable. In people’s minds, this referendum was about immigration, and the flames of right-wing extremism were being fanned. A quick look outside my circles showed that some people remained undeterred, though. I’m trying to turn away from that fury and focus on the real beast this has unleashed, but it comes and goes. This letter perfectly expresses how I feel:
    Now, left separatists, answer me this: Have you considered the effect that Brexit will have on women who need to travel to Britain for an abortion because of Ireland’s draconian laws? Sure you say, the common travel area between the UK and Ireland existed before the EU came along, but there was nothing in the referendum to protect that. There is nothing to say that these arrangements won’t be removed, especially due to the fact that so many people who were born outside the EU have become Irish citizens. Even then, think of all the non EU citizens who live in Ireland who now will not be able to travel. And what if new regulations are brought in with regards to healthcare provision that remove the right to obtain an abortion from non-UK citizens? Have you considered any of these things?
    Now former comrades, do tell me if you asked yourself any of these questions or if the people whose lives you have willfully thrown into precarity are just pawns in your pseudo-Marxist chess games? Were you sitting in your offices with wall charts outlining possible outcomes based on the immutable science of Historical Materialism? Because if you have a plan, now would be the time to fill us all in.
  • There are many possible outcomes for this whole mess, and very few of them don’t terrify me. Among my worries is seeing whatever remains of the Left in this country go back to pandering to xenophobic scaremongering because they believe that’s the only way a General Election can be won. The more you legitimise a fascist worldview, the more you legitimise fascism. Don’t ask us to understand voters’ concerns about immigration. They’re wrong, and it’s time someone told them.

  • Thoughts on the sociology of Brexit, by Will Davies.

  • On being a brown-skinned Brit in a post EU referendum world, by Anita Sethi.

  • These are scary times for people of colour. It’s time for a big conversation by Lola Okolosie.

  • Hope: Lesbians & Gays Support the Migrants. ♥

  • Some interesting historical reading: Britain’s most racist election: the story of Smethwick, 50 years on.

    I’m desperately afraid, friends, and I need all the comfort and support you can spare. I’m finding it hard to cling to any hope.

    1. You know you have all the support I can offer. All the hugs I can offer. All the love I can offer. But what I want to offer most--the hope that all these xenophobic, racist, right-wing extremists will have an epiphany and realize how completely wrong they've been both morally and intellectually--that I can't offer. And the fact that I can't offer that, well it hurts my heart more than words could ever say. But Ana, cling to hope with all your might. Hold on to it as tightly as you can manage. This vote just can't be the final word. It just can't be. Know how much you're loved and how much the people in your life support you. (((((((HUGS)))))))

      1. Oh Debi, the thought of my trip and getting to spend time with you soon is the one thing keeping me from complete despair right now. Thank you so much for being there <3

    2. ((Hugs)) I was shocked the final vote was to leave. This is a very scary election year, not just in UK either.

      PS—You should move to Scotland!

      1. Thank you. <3

        I adore Scotland, but the thought of uprooting my whole life again just feels me with dismay. I love my current city, and I wanted to be done with that. All the uncertainty of the past 5 years - with jobseeking and house hunting and slowly putting down roots - is really something I'd rather not have to repeat. :(

    3. I so wish I'd had the chance to give you a hug in person before all this happened. <3 I was shocked by the result, lulled into a false sense of complacency by survey results. Now I cannot believe all of the racism that this has unleashed and it is so, so painful. I'm horrified. For the first time since I've moved here we're considering leaving, and that's an outcome I'd never have anticipated. This is vividly not the country I thought it was. And as much as people tell me it wasn't about immigration *for them* it so clearly was for many, and now we're unleashing a world of what seems to be permitted racism. Where has basic human decency gone?

      I don't know what's next and it saddens and scares me.

      1. Aw, me too :( But we can exchange hugs of despair soon! I'll be very sorry to see you go, but I completely understand why you might be considering the option. And I know what you mean - I was not optimistic, especially not after Jo Cox, but deep in my heart of hearts I really hoped it wouldn't come to this. The past few days have been more viscous and brutal and terrifying than all my worst fears.

    4. I'm not sure I can offer much comfort, other than I am heartbroken about the leave result too.

      1. Thank you, Jessica. I know it doesn't feel like a lot, but support helps.

    5. It is sad, so sad, a world gone mad.

    6. One thousand hugs, Ana. I'm so sorry that you're having to be afraid for your future because loads of fuckwits in England are trying to make an idiotic rhetorical point about immigration. I want to kick the lot of them in the shins. Continuing to send hugs and good vibes.

    7. When I heard the result I was really shocked, couldn't believe it. And straight away I thought of you. I really hope that something can be done to rectify the situation.
      I can't send you enough hugs and good thoughts, but I'm trying.


    Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.