Winter is here. Winter is with us. And Winter is a time to draw in, to sit close to the fire and to reflect upon our place in the world. Which, given the strange and unprecedented state of the world at the moment, is an uneasy task. But it is an important one because, unless we take time to reflect, it is too easy in turbulent times to be swept along by the sheer pace of events and to lose sight of who we really are. We need to reflect in order to remember our core values, affirm the principals we will follow in order to live our lives in a way that is authentic and has value. Otherwise, we live lives of straw, without meaning or substance.
This blog is a tool which will enable me to take time to reflect in order to find the core values that I feel that I can Trust. Trust that, if I follow these values, I will be living a life that is True for me – a life with meaning, a good life.
And, it is my hope, that this blog may act as a seed for your own reflection. That, if you take time to engage with it, it may enable you too to find your True Values. These may well be different to mine. That’s ok. Truth is plural. I am not writing a political manifesto. I am not trying to convince you that I am right. I am just exploring where I stand. You have to do your own exploring. Find out where you can place your Trust.
This year, here in the UK, many people put their Trust in the notion of a nation state. Around the time of the EU Referendum, I heard a lot of people express the idea that here was a chance to “make Britain Great again”. Not just the charlatans of Westminster but people I knew, people I thought of as friends. And, as I heard those sorts of opinions expressed, I felt a wave rise within me. A wave of revulsion that was almost physical. This wasn’t an intellectually worked out position. This was an instinctive recoil. It felt wrong. Wrong down to my very bones. Wrong.
I voted Remain but not because I like the EU. I am very well aware that there is a lot wrong with the EU as an institution. In many ways I could be happy to be free of it. I voted Remain because the alternative vision of the world being offered by the Leave camp made me physically sick. I hate and loath the mindset that has been validated by the Leave campaign. The mindset that sees the World in terms of borders. The mindset of Us and Them. The mindset that pits one nation against another. That makes of our lives a mere competition – a meagre scratching to get more from the basket than your neighbour.
I refuse to have my world reduced to that impoverished level.
I refuse to see a fellow human being as Other than me just because he or she happens to have been born inside a different national boundary. A boundary that was not chosen. A boundary that is artificial and imposed.
I view myself as a World citizen. I am a human being on Planet Earth. All other categories – English, British, European – are impositions and I refuse to be defined by them.
After all, what does being “British” mean? How is it that I feel that I have more in common with the Native Americans protesting at Standing Rock than I do with fellow “Brits” Farage and Johnson? I loathe the small-minded warm beer and cricket vision of “England” promoted by them during the Brexit campaign.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this land where I was born and where I choose to live. I love its diversity, its complexity, its history, its peoples,its seasons, its contradictions and its gentleness. I am proud to be British. But it is not the Britain that has risen on the back of the Brexit argument. Brexit Britain to me is an ugly distortion. A monstrous, childish parody of itself writhing with fear and lack of self esteem, a fear that manifests as hatred, pulling the covers over its head and blaming the bogeyman for all its problems. The bogeyman being the EU, or immigrants, or East Europeans, or migrant workers, or Muslims, or anyone that looks a bit different, or acts a bit different, or thinks a bit different. And,one day, the bogeyman could turn out to be you. It’s only an illness, an accident, an injury away.
What I hate most is that it is all the result of Fear. Fear of Other. Of Difference. And Fear leads to a Closing Down of Possibility and the Drawing up of Barriers.
If we let ourselves focus on Difference, we are Fucked. It is a blind alley. We are all of us different. Everyone. It is what makes us wonderful and we should celebrate it. Diversity makes us strong. We are a fantastic rainbow of chaos. We should celebrate difference and look for common ground. We are all human beings. All basically the same. Equal but different. The same but different.
If you come to me asking for help because your home has been destroyed, it matters not whether the cause of the destruction was fire, flood, hurricane or war. Nor does it matter where your home was, nor the country of your birth. What qualifies you for my help is that you are a human being and you need help. That is enough.
So, I place my Trust in my common humanity and a conviction that humans are basically good. To believe otherwise is to open a door for Fear to creep in. Creep in and divide and sew the seeds of Hate.
I have no objection if you voted Leave. There are arguments for Leaving the EU that I understand. But if you voted Leave out of Fear. Fear that Others will take our jobs, destroy our economy, fill up our housing stock, then I have a problem. If your vote was powered by a belief that being British makes you better than the rest, I have a problem. If you want to “make Britain Great again,” I have a problem. I have a problem because that sentiment is driven by Fear. And it is a sentiment that will lead to Division and Hate. If you voted Leave, I still love you – but, seriously, what were you thinking?
I put my Trust in Unity and Love. Fuck Division and Hate.