BREXIT – What the Hell – Have the British gone crazy? – Uri Avnery

What the Hell – Uri Avnery – 02/07/16
What the hell has happened to them? Have they gone crazy? The British, of all people?

Opinion - commentary -analysisI have always been an Anglophile. Even as a youngster, when I was a member of a terrorist organization devoted to driving the British out of our country. At the time I was working in a lawyer’s office which had English clients. I liked most of them. (For us colonials, they were all “English”.)

The British always struck me as a highly rational people. Self-controlled, moderate, averse to shows of emotion.

And here they are, making a quite irrational decision on a matter of historic importance, letting their aversion for “foreigners” guide and misguide their vote.

THE VERY occasion was as un-British as can be.    

The British pride themselves on having invented modern democracy. Their “elite” never had any illusions about the common man (and much later, common woman). British voters did not make fateful decisions. They elected people much more competent than themselves to make the fateful decisions, people educated for the job. Actually, people born for the job.

The democratically elected leaders of the British people often had a thinly veiled contempt for the people who elected them. The quintessential British leader, Winston Churchill, famously said that “the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

Therefore, any kind of a plebiscite is strictly against the character of British democracy. A referendum is an invitation to irresponsibility. A person follows their fleeting emotions, they may vote for the opposite the very next day – when it is too late. A vote for “yes” or “no” on the spur of a moment can be quite random for a lot of people – certainly when the result hangs on 1% or 2%. (A referendum should at least require a 75% or 60% majority.)

Last week’s referendum showed why referenda are irresponsible. A majority – although a tiny majority – of the British voted democratically to leave the European Union.

Why, for God’s sake?

By now, thousands of commentaries have been broadcast and printed. Thousands of explanations have been put forward. But in the end it boils down to one thing: the British were fed up with all those Frogs and Huns and other “Foreigners”, who want to tell them what to do for their own good.

To hell with them.

I vividly remember a wonderful British poster after the fall of France in 1940: “Alright then, Alone!” British people of my generation will forever remember the spirit of that slogan.

But this is not 1940. The world has moved on. The world is continuing to move. The “Brexit” may be a nice toy to play with. But it is disastrous.

OF ALL the many explanations put forward for this decision, the most convincing one is that throughout the democratic world there is a growing distaste, even aversion, for the existing political establishment.

Many British voters, it seems, did not vote for or against the Brexit, but for or against the established parties.

This sentiment spurs on extreme fascist, and in some countries also radical leftist, parties everywhere.

Donald Trump is the misbegotten child of this sentiment. So, in a more likeable form, is Bernie Sanders.

In Israel we have the same prevalent sentiment, only more so. The spontaneous outcry that sprang up on the morrow of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, “Enough, we are fed up with you!” (or “Enough, you disgust us!”), which swept Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan from power, is now more prevalent than ever.

The democratic world is fed up with the establishment. Everywhere, politicians are seen as corrupt hirelings of the ultra-rich, or, at least, as “out of touch”.

The Brexit vote is part of this worldwide trend. It is a protest vote, that has little to do with the subject of the referendum. The EU is seen as an embodiment of the upper class, elitist, undemocratic bureaucracy, a replica of the home-grown “elite”. So, away with it!

It is a childish attitude. A toddler kicking his mother.

BUT IT is more than that. Much more.

It is the last stand of nationalism, a step back for humanity.

I am a nationalist. I believe that humanity is still at the stage of nationhood. I believe that no creed or “ism” can overcome nationalism at the present stage of human endeavour.

Communism tried and failed, after a century-long struggle. Fascism, which tried to become supra-national, tried and failed. The Christian religion has tried and failed. Wherever these and other creeds have tried to oppose nationalism, they have been crushed.

Perhaps the most blatant example was communism. When attacked by Germany, the Soviet Union fell back on “patriotism”. Where communism combined with nationalism, as in Vietnam, it flourishes.

Zionism was victorious because it turned the Jewish religious community into a modern Israeli nation.

Why did nationalism become the Zeitgeist, some 250 years ago? Because its spiritual content matched the material circumstances. Economic, military and communicational developments demanded ever larger entities. Small regional entities – like the Scots, the Corsicans, the Basques, – could not meet these necessities, could not defend themselves anymore, nor compete with larger economic units. So they joined the new nation-states – Great Britain, France, Spain. The German Reich and the Italian republic came into being.

This reality is now quickly becoming obsolete. The economy has become global, the nuclear bomb is the weapon of great powers, the global environment can be saved only by a huge joint effort by all humanity, the internet and the media connect all human beings in total disregard of borders. The nation-state cannot compete in isolation.

But human emotions do not change as quickly as material reality. People cling to old ideas. Nations still have a powerful hold on their nationals. Every international soccer match shows this clearly and powerfully. The soccer hooligans are a true reflection of their nations.

This is the real root of the Brexit. Nationalism resists regional and global logic. It fights for existence, it clings to the past. Like the weavers in the 1892 German play by Gerhart Hauptman, who destroyed the new machines of the industrial age, in order to preserve the obsolete economic order on which their livelihood depended.

History can be quite amusing. One of the results of this movement toward larger post-nationalist entities is the breakup of the 19th and 20th century nations. If real sovereignty moves from London and Paris and Madrid to Brussels, there is no need for Scots, Corsicans or Basques to stay in their larger nation. They can go back to their prior local mini-nationalism and remain in the EU. The United Queendom (not my phrase) will become Little England again.

AS A teenager I joined the terrorist underground because I believed that we should have our own nation-state, which became Israel. In the 1948 war I became convinced that there was no way to compel the Palestinians to give up their craving for a nation-state of their own. Thus the “two states for two nations” idea was born. But not much later I advocated the creation of a “Semitic Union”, in which Israel, Palestine and the other Arab countries would cooperate on a regional basis. (Recently, an Israeli group called “Two States, One Motherland” took up the same idea again).

There is something pathetic and moving in the British decision. They remember the “Alright then, Alone” mood, the proudest moment in their entire history. They remember when their tiny island-nation ruled the seas and a fifth of the continents, including my country.

But it is still madness.

HUMAN PROGRESS demands larger and larger entities. This century will see a new World Order. Alas, I will not be around, but I already see it with my mind’s eye. It is inevitable.

The question is if this world order will be democratic, or not. It is up to humanity to ensure it is. The same is true for the European Union now. Those who dislike its set-up must fight for change – for its true democratization, for effective social welfare and human rights. That’s what the British voters should have voted for.

Instead of which they voted for “Stop the world, we want to get off!”

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Comments

  • Clyde Duncan  On July 4, 2016 at 5:41 am

    5 Minute Forecast – Essential Insights On Time

    Consider a contrary opinion,” a reader wrote us yesterday. We’ve spilled a lot of digital ink on “Brexit” the last week. Too much, in the estimation of this reader, who sent a link to an article at MarketWatch titled, “7 Reasons Not to Panic About Markets’ Reaction to Brexit.”

    The writer is Brett Arends, who we’ve cited favourably in these virtual pages once or twice. “This too will pass,” is one of his seven reasons. Among the others: The European Union makes up only 17% of “real world economic output.” It’s not as if the EU and Great Britain will stop trading with each other. The bold can buy assets on the cheap at panic moments like these, and even conservative buy-and-hold types “can still take advantage of the sell-off to add to their holdings in international stock funds.”

    We can’t quibble with much of that. And the market freakout of yesterday and Friday is calming down as we write this morning.

    However…

    “New earthquakes are coming soon as part of the Brexit aftershocks,” warns Jim Rickards.

    Yes, we know. We’ve gotten some reader pushback on this score as well. “Your unmitigated constant sales pitch on Rickards’ writings is getting somewhat boring,” one wrote us recently.

    Well in the first place, we think there’s value to Jim’s opinions even if they didn’t help sell newsletters and trading services. Besides, when readers of Rickards’ Intelligence Triggers have the chance to pull down 129% gains in 72 hours from a Brexit surprise… the trading services tend to sell themselves.

    “Wall Street,” Jim says today, “will tell you that you cannot foresee shocks and you cannot ‘beat the market.’ Don’t believe it. While most market participants were shocked at the Brexit vote, we saw it coming a mile away using our proprietary models.”

    So what next? For starters, while the British pound has tumbled 10% from last Thursday’s levels of $1.50, Jim anticipates there’s much more downside to come.
    How much more from today’s levels of $1.32? Try 80 cents. That’s a call Jim made here back on May 9, assuming the “Leave” faction won.

    He’s sticking with that figure. “Brexit is just the beginning,” he says, pointing to a likely move by Scotland to leave the U.K. so it can stay in the EU. Northern Ireland might do the same. Which leaves politicians in Wales jittery about being a mere appendage of England.

    Meanwhile, “the EU is likely to take a punitive approach to the Brexit negotiations,” Jim says. “This will be done as ‘an example to the rest’ in order to head off other nationalist movements that want to quit the EU.”

    This is already happening. EU leaders are rejecting any “informal” talks on the terms of a separation until Britain invokes Article 50 of the EU charter, starting a formal process — and a two-year clock on negotiations. Prime Minister David Cameron says he’ll leave it to his successor, whoever it is, to take that step… but Cameron’s resignation isn’t effective until October.

    Another factor: “With the U.K. out of the EU, the European Central Bank will ban the settlement and clearance of euro-denominated transactions in London,” Jim adds.

    “These transactions will have to be settled and cleared inside EU member nations in centres like Paris, Amsterdam and Milan. The result will be a diminution in London’s role as a financial centre beyond what even the pessimists are currently predicting.”

    And that’s not an exhaustive list. “Only a small portion of the impact of these events has been priced into markets already,” Jim concludes.

    “Above all, these trends mean uncertainty. Markets have ways to price risk on a probabilistic basis, but markets have no way to price uncertainty where almost anything can happen. In these situations, markets go to the safest of safe havens, and that means cash, U.S. Treasuries and gold.”

    We’ll leave it at that today. We get it: We’re a little weary of Brexit ourselves. On the other hand, it does represent a huge middle finger extended by everyday people toward the ruling elites. And it marks the first reversal of an ongoing “European integration” project going back to the original European Coal and Steel Community in 1951. Those count for a lot.

    One more reader:

    “Dave, great points about the elites’ insularity in the whole Brexit mess,” a reader writes. “Speaking of which, how disturbing is it that none of them seems to have any clue what to do now?

    “Other than Jim Rickards and the Agora team, everyone — from politicians to market makers — was caught offside by the referendum. OK, maybe that’s understandable. Many people’s models and expectations were flawed.

    “But no one seems to have any idea where to go from here! Even the ‘Leave’ camp has no plan and no unity. Hats off to the Brits for making such a courageous stand. Unfortunately, it’s exposing the bureaucrats for the idiots they really are. That’s likely to be very costly.”

    The 5: That was Jim’s concern about the wisdom of the “Leave” vote, never mind the fact he’s on friendly terms with “Leave” firebrand Nigel Farage. Or as a fellow from Great Britain said in this space a few days ago, “The Brexit side does not have a clear plan.”

    Hours after the election, Farage said it was a mistake for the “Leave” campaign to claim that the $465 million Britain sends to the EU could now be spent on the National Health Service instead.

    Not exactly the environment that encourages a strong currency…

    Best regards,
    Dave Gonigam
    The 5 Min. Forecast

  • Clyde Duncan  On July 4, 2016 at 5:46 am

    I imagine you tell your baby a lie and the baby throws a tantrum because it knows you are full of cock [and bull] and with an undeveloped brain cannot form proper arguments to rebut your nonsense.

    Like Britain sends $ 465-miilion a week to the EU …. and they could now spend that on the National Health Service …..

    Hello? How much is going to mental health, I wonder??

  • De castro  On July 4, 2016 at 6:37 am

    Absolute basiura…Rubbish !
    The Brits voted for independence from
    bureaucracy home and in EU.
    A USA of UK.

    Don’t wish to be dictated to by bureaucrats in Brussels or in UK.
    73% turnout sends the right signal.
    Brits are engaged politically.

    Economically the world their oyster
    as they now export more to ROW
    that what they import. Lil China !
    UK has a trade surplus which will only
    increase as £ gets weaker.
    Not to mention BOE printing press
    is a 24/7 operation now.
    Demand supply thesis.
    Equilibrium
    £=€=$ 1 for 1
    Level playing field !

    Ignore the political infighting
    Observe the ERM of the planet.

    Follow the money trail to end of rainbow…pot of gold ? it’s not rocket
    science. Common sense in economics.
    Not Politricks !

    Lord kamtan

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On July 4, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    “HUMAN PROGRESS demands larger and larger entities.”
    ~ Really? Like the transnational corporations – too big to fail and too big to jail – that now have more economic and political power than some nation states?
    ~ Am I wrong in believing that human progress demands cooperation among nations and their peoples?

  • Clyde Duncan  On July 4, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    ~ Am I wrong in believing that human progress demands cooperation among nations and their peoples?

    Rosaliene: You are NOT wrong – but such cooperation creates larger entities.

    You live in the United States of America, don’t you?

    Do you think that having the USA broken up into tiny little bits is going to make it as Great? Or, Greater?

    When we started down the road to Globalization – The powers that be overlooked some things ….. that is what is haunting the people now – Abuse of Power.

    • De castro  On July 4, 2016 at 7:11 pm

      USA is already broken up into tiny
      little bits of power.
      No universal law for all …
      Lawful in one state unlawful in
      another. Death penalty gun laws
      etc…DSA ..divided states of America.
      Isn’t it what EU is dreaming of…
      United States of Europe.
      One law for all …all laws for one.

      Of course the alternative would lead
      to anarchy or even another civil war.

      As the saying goes…
      You can please most of the people
      all of the time …not all of the people
      all of the time.
      USA is in its embryonic stage of
      development compared to some
      other developing ones.
      The road to democracy is not
      decided by wars … decided by
      it’s voters/peoples.
      In free and fair elections.
      We are getting there…eventually!

  • Clyde Duncan  On July 4, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    de Castro: They say don’t argue with a Fool in public because Passersby can’t tell the difference.

    You have a whole essay of sense to read and question, instead your response is “Absolute basiura…Rubbish !”

    You even got special mention here:
    The Brexit vote is part of this worldwide trend. IT IS A PROTEST VOTE, that has little to do with the subject of the referendum. The EU is seen as an embodiment of the upper class, elitist, undemocratic bureaucracy, a replica of the home-grown “elite”. So, away with it!

    It is a childish attitude. A toddler kicking his mother.

    And none of it makes any sense to you??

    • De castro  On July 5, 2016 at 2:56 am

      Just throwing a tantrum…toys out
      of the pram.
      More acceptable accusation is
      supporting “nationalism”
      Economic nationalism
      Not political nationalism.
      Am no politician thank you.
      USA has always put USA first
      in their one/lopsided trade agreements.
      That’s why I support exit from EU.
      UK is quite capable of making its
      own trade agreements putting
      British interests first.
      Why employ a dog and bark.
      Just bite !
      EU will have to reform if it is to continue with its hidden political agenda.
      As soon as infighting in UK dust has
      settled observe if EU strengthens
      or weakens its political influences.
      EU not unlike USA is an economic
      trading block. There are many such
      giants but it only takes a David to
      turn things around.
      Observe the changes and try to
      understand learn from them.
      Only fools apply similar rules and
      expect different results.
      Our world is changing
      Will change
      As change we must or die we will

      Philosophically yours
      Lord kamtan

  • walter  On July 5, 2016 at 10:11 am

    Totally agree. I also think members of the Caribbean/Latin regions should rethink their trading practise, always end up without any cards in the game.

    • De castro  On July 5, 2016 at 11:36 am

      Corruption ?
      Snakes with forked tounge.!

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