Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Europa geht durch mich

The approach taken by those who wish the UK to remain a member of the EU leaves something to be desired to say the least. As the Scottish independence referendum demonstrated, if you are arguing only on the basis of pounds and pence or narrow statistical self-interest, you have already lost the argument — even if, as in the case of Scotland, fear and inertia might yet suffice to bear you over the finish line.

There are, of course, those who say that a British vote to leave the EU would be a good thing because it would give Scotland a second chance at independence. That is undoubtedly true, but we should be clear that it is a peerie bubble of good on a vast sea of bad.

The Blether Region is not proud to be Scots, for the simple reason that pride without a reason behind it is not logical. Nationality is an accident of birth, a portion of good and ill doled out to every new bairn — but fundamentally not of one's own choosing. At the same time, however, it accepts the responsibility of its birth to do the best for Scotland, particularly regarding those things that Scotland should be doing but isn't. Gaelic, and Scots in the meaningful sense of a distinct language, remain at the point of extinction. Sectarianism may be buried in a political sense, but the corpse can yet show flickers of life. The final chapters of these aspects of our national story have yet to be written, and it is our task to ensure a happy ending.

Europe is another story, for, while the current generation may have inherited the foundations, it is also building the edifice. It is entirely logical to be proud of one's European identity, not because of any primitive sense of racial similarity, but because of one's active participation in the attempt, unparalleled in human history, to create a social union not dominated by a single culture.

The European idea does not get a good press in the UK, either in the newspapers owned by tax-dodging oligarchs, or on television, which takes its cue from them. That allows the propagation of the Big Lie. Just as the Conservatives are allowed to maintain unchallenged that excessive Old Labour spending rather than devil-may-care New Labour deregulation caused the economic crisis, so, for more than a generation now, it has been possible to disseminate the most outrageous untruths about the European Union, safe in the knowledge that one is highly unlikely ever to be brought to book.

The latest example came on today's BBC Breakfast news, when a report on the EU was intercut with footage of non-European immigrants. The UK has such communities, which enrich it, because it conquered so many other countries and, when it had finished exploiting the territories in question, chose to exploit their inhabitants as cheap labour at home. The reason that immigration is so prominent a political theme is the grotesque concentration of wealth in the influential south-east of England, which means that nearly all the immigrants currently want to go to the same region. None of that has anything to do with the EU, which was born as a reaction against imperialism, which insists on spending in poorer areas, and which would regulate financial markets if it were allowed to do so. Indeed, the UK has been allowed to take far fewer than its fair share of refugees just because the EU lacks teeth.

Many of the lies told about the EU have a common motivation: the desire to reverse gains made over a period of decades by working people, particularly women, for the benefit of bad employers. The propaganda tools to achieve that end are the worst sort of daily papers — comics with tits — a constant, stultifying diet of dog-whistle paranoia. Flicking through them, one often gets the impression that their editors prize anti-EU propaganda as an acceptable form of racism, a kind of legal opium for the masses.

The Blether Region is distinctly proud that its wee three-leedit family is a microcosm of a far greater and even more diverse one across Europe. It is proud that the EU has ended war. It is proud that the EU's negotiated politics are pragmatic rather than ideological. Proud too that it believes Old Father State should look after his children.

It would be a terrible shame if retired people, living off political promises wrung from elected representatives, were to ruin the life-chances of their grandchildren by voting to leave the EU — just as they imposed the wrong choice on them in the Scottish independence referendum.

During that debate, the Blether Region was struck by the injustice of Spain, a country that joined a decade after the UK, conniving to threaten Scotland with exclusion, and for the doubly undemocratic reason that self-determination in one country might fuel demands for self-determination in another. There is a similar irony in today's debates, since the UK may be about to leave the EU just when many countries in central Europe, which joined as soon as the fall of communism allowed them, are coming into their own, and with others queuing at the door.

It is no doubt British politeness to give up one's seat for a late-comer, but it may not be common sense.

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