“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” is a saying that haunts me. Doing nothing sounds great. It sounds safe and comfortable.
With only one day left before registration for voting in the EU referendum closed, I was at the electoral office getting signed up. I saw the result as a foregone conclusion and the process being divisive for the whole country. The Tory party is gutting itself with all the infighting, parties of the left have been supportive of the EU with many disagreeing internally. Divide and conquer showing itself on every level. Many of those who support a remain vote are labeling those in disagreement as fascists or racists, while they themselves are being labelled quite often as establishment-loving liberals. Good people, friends of mine, have been making insulting comments. People are turning on those they would have considered political allies before this campaign, people with whom they share the same values.
This is why I didn’t want to get involved, but that saying haunts me.
The referendum poses a massive decision for people, and they are taking it very seriously. A close friend of mine told me, “Sometimes I feel like voting to leave, but I’ll probably stick with staying when I get in the polling booth.” The concerns people have are real and valid. For those on who want to stay there are big problems with uncertainty of how things would be if we were to leave the European Union. I respect why people would want to vote that way. There are many in the UK who live a stable life, who have people who depend on them, and who have a higher stake in keeping things the way they are. For me, a twenty eight year old with a big student debt and the prospect of getting a meaningful job quite difficult, the EU has done very little.
For example with employers rights. The Conservative party may have a bad reputation when it comes it workers, but how much protection has the EU really brought to workers? Mike Ashley was hauled in front of the House of Commons’ Business Committee for a bollocking by MPs about how workers at his company (Sports Direct) have been treated, because he can’t be hauled in front of the courts. His company was acting within the law. If the EU protected our employment rights so well, why do so many of us have Sports Direct-esque experiences, where we work in degrading conditions for small amounts of pay?
Fracking is still a concern for residents of all parts of the UK and the recent horse meat scandal exposed problems with globalisation in our food supply. These examples raise questions on how effective the EU really is environmentally and how much we benefit from globalisation.
Another area of misinformation and division is around immigration. The facts are difficult to discern and it’s hard to know who to trust. Why can’t we trust mainstream media when talking about crimes committed as a result of a lack of integration from refugees or migrants, but we can when refugees or migrants are portrayed as victims? I believe the Truth lies not in excluding one of these statements, but in acknowledging both.
Let me first say that I am opposed to borders. I believe that people should have the freedom to move between countries, to trade, work and visit other countries without the need for permission. What we have, however, is not immigration. It is a mass movement of people. The people of countries like Syria and Iraq have been victims of war and economic sanctions brought on by foreign countries for years. Natives of those countries risk their lives by staying and risk their lives by leaving. The gap between the standard of living in their war torn homelands and a relatively stable Europe is so great that it’s not hard to see why people would risk leaving. Neighbouring countries such as Saudi Arabia and Israel are doing little to help refugees forcing them north geographically. This creates a funnel system, and with huge numbers moving into new areas without any real mechanisms for integration, there will be problems. Ignoring this as a problem will not stop it.
For some migration is a bad thing, for me it’s not. It allows for new ideas to spread around the world, for new technological advancements to be developed, and it offers people individual freedom. Forced mass migration on the other hand does not end well. Mass migration is often followed by war, famine, disease and eventually state collapse. This knowledge on history’s cycles is easily accessible. The rulers of the world already know it, yet they are doing little to stop it. Based on how little percolates into the mainstream about tensions between refugee groups and European natives, I would question the motives of the rulers of Europe entirely.
The European Union is a massive source of centralised power. Like all sources of centralised power, it may have started with the best intentions, but has become corrupt. We have seen how this has happened to other sources of centralised power: MPs fiddling their expenses, child abuse in the Catholic church, and banks rigging financial markets all with little real consequence or accountability. The EU, like these other organisations, is acting in the interests of its leaders and not those who it claims to serve. The defining proof of this, despite what good it claims to do, is austerity.
Austerity is a political weapon of the ruling class. It is a method of disempowering the working classes and allowing the wealthy and powerful to consolidate that wealth and power. Austerity is incredibly complex by design. It is not as simple as needing to balance the books. There are many other economic, social and psychological dimensions to it. All that we really need to see is that during times of austerity, the working classes find it difficult to be upwardly socially mobile, while the rich have little impact on their standard of living and have increased their wealth since the most recent financial crisis.
Austerity is a core policy of the EU. In 2012 Francois Hollande was elected President of France under a socialist banner. In his victory speech he said, “Europe is watching us, austerity can no longer be the only option.” He was quickly brought into line. The Greeks put up slightly more of a fight when they elected far-left Syriza but were spectacularly crushed when the financial forces of Europe colluded, as former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis described after leaving office.
When we give our power away to bigger organisations it is harder to get it back. We have given away so much already. This is our chance to take some it back. This is our chance to start reclaiming our energy supplies, our food supplies and our water supplies. We’ll bring the power back to Westminster and then we’ll take it from them too.
This is a chance for us to live fulfilling lives, to be able to interact with people instead of bureaucracies or companies, and to have more meaningful relationships from that. I respect the decision of those who have voted to stay in. I respect they have reached that decision as an autonomously thinking human being. They are not my enemies. My enemies are those who perpetuate division for their own benefit through organisations like the EU. Doing nothing sounds safe and comfortable, but that same saying still haunts me.