January 16, 2013
The thing that bugs me the most about the possible Britexit is that people around me seem to take it very lightly. So what if the Brits want out? Let them out, we don’t care. And i take that as a sign of the unfinished construction of the European populous. No matter what nation you pick from across the continent, when you talk of a presumable secession of one of the provinces, you get heated arguments and a general rejection of the idea from people not within the respective province. A certain fear of separation, and an almost blind devotion to the integrity of the nation state. Generally I would translate that as unity within the populous around a given set of values that define that social construction.
We don’t yet see that in Europe. The 500 million plus people in the EU today don’t act as one. I would even go as far as saying that the only true EU wide unity (or at least at some multi-national level) appears only when a mass demonstration is under way in Brussels. Take for example the recent European Milk Board protests that amassed farmers from 14 nations united for one purpose. But that seems to be as far as anyone is willing to go. If results are achieved, then the ad-hoc union disperses as each party tries to get more for themselves.
We lack the unity that would allow us to become one. We lack it because we seldom get reasons to unite behind the European idea. We have no sports team under the EU flag to cheer for, there is no threat against the Union – outside threats are always directed at specific nations! That’s a good strategy for the “enemy”, but a bad thing for the rest of us, as it prevents us for achieving unity. So what if nation A threatens France or Spain, we here in Romania or Poland have no worries. And voila the continuous opportunity to not feel as one united people.
It’s now the case with the Britexit. Except for those interested in EU affairs, the large portion of society could not care less. Neither is anyone clearly explaining that there is no scenario where the Britexit would be painless or uneventful. Public pressure from outside the realm could not value less for the Brit politicians (consider this at large) but it might matter to regular Brits. And it can be easily explained. In the age of Facebook and Twitter, of low cost flights and so on, personal connections within European individuals go further than what one might think. We all have friends and people we interact with all across the continent. We met them during our studies, while travelling at conventions and fares. We connected. It has been my experience that bonds created at personal level outgun ideas generated at mass level. I spent 1 year in France as an Erasmus student before Romania’s accession to the EU, and had to deal with a lot of misconceptions about Romanian people at large. But those I did manage to strike a connection with, have forever abandoned those ideas, mainly because they had a first hand experience.
All these considered, the Britexit sounds to me not as a “divorce”, but more like the UK saying “let’s stay together, but I get to see other people!”. And what strikes me as odd is that as far as the average Jane or Joe is considered, this is not a problem. And the reason it’s not a problem is that most likely there was no relationship in the first place. No perceived relationship at least. Right now the situation is at a point where everything is possible, and no matter how much we analyse it, i have the feeling that everything that could be said has been said, and it’s up to the British people.
But what we must, and I’m going to stress that – WE MUST, really consider about this entire affair is that there is no relationship between the people. No real, heartfelt relationship, and a certain lack of emotion. Because there is a lack of emotion towards the EU – maybe! Because we are too entrenched in views about the nation – also maybe. Separation of understanding between the people and their politicians greatly diminishes the connection between the EU and its people. 2013 is an important year -it’s the European Year of Citizens. Let’s fight to make it count. Spread the word – we are all Europeans.