Don’t mention the Brexit

“..The ignorant man is an ox.
He grows in size, not in wisdom.”

From Dhammapa’da, The Sayings of the Buddha

It will be difficult to find open minds and be open minded discussing this “b-word” subject since the discussion is so emotionally charged.

My position is in a way remarkable since I count myself personally amongst a few that actually lives for the past 25 years a European reality that would have been far more difficult if not impossible without the European Union: Being a German national I studied in the UK, then emigrated first to London, then Stockholm and back again to England whilst working most of the time self-employed. And whilst I’m deeply grateful for these opportunities and was very much supportive of the European Project at it’s time I believe that we are emerging into a new era that implicitly requires new ways of thinking of us.

To stay with my personal experiences I found myself in a strange deja-vu situation during this Brexit campaign of the last 2+ years: Shortly after I moved to Sweden in late 2002 I witnessed, and actually participated in, Sweden’s referendum on joining the EURO. And even though the subject is slightly different – currency vs membership – the similarities in my view were, are and will be very similar.

It all began with a bunch of backward thinking backbenchers, nationalist, xenophobic and conservative to the core, the kind of folks that like to remember the good old days and distrusts instinctively anything foreign. Somehow they didn’t become quiet over time even though reality seemed to have moved on benefitting most of us, including themselves. So a choice, being part of the club or not, seemed to be a no-brainer, a formality to finish off this drary discussion for good, which I assume was the reason why the general public, the “plebs” were given this choice in the first place: people would certainly not vote against the predominant story of progress, of growth, of economic unity.

The reasons why I use the wording “seemingly benefitted” and “predominant story” became obvious when in both campaigns suddenly much more of us folks seemed to have second thoughts on the EURO/EU. Whilst most of middle class and certainly the few “above” were still riding the wave of increasing wealth and comfort reflected in mainstream media and entertainment, a majority of people seem to not believe this myth any longer. Be it for their personal situation, time and again experiencing a decline of their financial assets, of their social security or their working conditions – despite the promises made by politicians and media for decades, be it for more general, political and environmental reasons that the “trickle down economy”, the “more, faster, cheaper” or the perpetual “growth” story doesn’t keep it’s promises.

As a result the entire establishment, all traditional political parties, most mainstream news outlets, trade unions, economists and pretty much anyone with a voice or balanced bank account bombarded us with what usually works best: promises for a brighter future with the club and, much more so, fears of loosing out and degrading into fast decline both economically and socially outside the EURO/EU.

The absurdity of some of these arguments are hard to beat and require a vivid imagination: refugees on the shores of Denmark or France, food shortages and social decline into the dark ages. At the time in Sweden a relative of mine, an economist, seriously argued that the EURO is a good idea because it takes away the worries of changing money on a holiday. In short, established media outlets were, and still are, running wild with horror scenarious should one dare to leave or even question the club.

To just finish off the comparison between these two referendums: We all know the outcome of the votes, despite all that is mentioned above. A considerate majority outvoted middle class, establishment, cityfolk Sweden and Britain. Sweden, I recently read, is one of the strongest european economies this year – and I can see that Britain will be too in a decade or so.

But I believe there are a few more sinister angles to this, and I would be genuinly surprised if Brexit will actually be allowed to happen.


Brexit. Grexit, Departugal. Italeave. Fruckoff. Czechout. Oustria. Finish. Slovakout. Latervia. Byegium.

Rahul Goma Phulare – via Twitter

Would Britain leave the EU I predict many other nations would want to follow suit. I believe it could and probably would be the beginning of the end of the Big Economic Project. And too many too powerful interests are invested in it for them to allow a few million British citizens to jepardize the entire “community”.

There was a brief moment of self reflection from the other side of the British Channel on the EU’s democratic shortcomings – just before the referendum – and if anything that should have been the teaching from the British vote. It was brief.

The EU (just as the US, the Russian Federation or the Republic of China) by default, as I see it, cannot be a democratic project: the bigger a constituency, the further power is removed from the individual. Polititions are alianated from the everyday of most of the people and citizens feel excluded from EU decision-making (in fact they have only an indirect say by electing a European parliament that holds little power, not to mention that nobody even vaguely knows how and where decisions are made in Brussels or Strassbourgh).

Don’t misunderstand me here, I think Westminster (or Berlin for my folks) is far to big and removed from the ground just as well. Eventually, and soon, we will have to govern ourselves and find solutions on a much more local level, independent and collaborative, to tackle the economical, ecological and social problems our civilisation has created.

Defaming the entire Leave campain simply as a rightwing, xenophobic movement might have seemed strategically clever since it made it impossible for many to be associated with, but it doesn’t reflect the true reasons for wanting a different political governance. 30 years of rising unequality, dissolving social security systems, social, financial and ecological desaster should have played a part, too.

There was a time for a European Union, but wouldn’t we agree that it is about time to rethink “faster, bigger, higher”? And wouldn’t it seem, as they say, insane to think that more of the same will get us out of the mess we put the planet in. I can’t tell what it looks like what is to come and I deeply distrust anyone that believes to know. You cannot eat the cake and have it, you need to leave the land to discover new shores… and you have to drop the past to allow a different future. What seems the end of the world to the caterpillar .. and then comes the butterfly, and to stick with this allegory, yes, there might well be an ugly, seemingly dead chrysalis in between. I see this as the end of the time of thinking and the beginning of the time of knowing, the knowing that is older than our civilization, that is in all, and in all of us, too.



Remember Remember

Hardly a subject more laden with pride, sentiment, nationalism or even economical interests as the armed forces, and the stuff that Remembrance day brings up in many of us. And still, I feel a sense of loss, not so much maybe (anymore) for the fallen soldiers themselves but for an identity that is fading away.


Ever since I came to this country with its unbroken national and military history I was amazed by how little questioning seems tangible towards remembrance day and even more so the spectacle in its stride. If not openly so maybe jokingly I was expecting much more of a self critical reflection, at least from my generation or younger. But far from it, you can hardly see a lapel (or car grill) that does not feature a poppy these days, be it old or young. Wearing a poppy or uniform got you a free bus ride here in Bath today.

If you don’t want wars, a good start would be not to participate in them.

My personal and my national background (born in then West-Germany before its reunification and subsequent military engagement, raised by a deeply traumatized war-orphaned father) made any glorification and celebration of war or armies very difficult if not impossible. The story of the soldier being a hero, the army being the saviour was not told when and where I grew up. So, initially I wondered, trying to understand what I was missing, then subsequently, more or less successfully, ignored the annual hype here in Britain. After all I felt this was not my battle or fight.

Many years in, now that my children are growing up being british (my son with great joy and enthusiasm marches with the Cadets), this has changed on a personal level. On a political/economical level the world of the military is not the same either anymore: Whilst traditionally serving the interest of the nation state it now more and more obviously serves the interests of transnational capital. And, to quote Charles Eisenstein, “on a deeper level, it serves the paradigm of domination through force.

“..In this world hate never yet dispelled hate. Only love dispels hate. This is the law, ancient and inexhaustible..” Choices, Dhammapa’da, Sayings of the Buddha

You could safely say that by re-membering, by re-living, by re-dying the faith of the british soldiers in WW1 (and all the other wars, all the other nations if you like) you are keeping the suffering, the dying, but also the reasons for all of it alive. Personally, one honours the fallen soldiers believing it gives their deaths a deeper (or any) meaning, that they did not die in vain. Institutionally it serves a seemingly more sinister purpose, telling the story that should you die as a soldier you neither will be forgotten. (My cynical self is trying to have a giggle seeing these kids march, still, up and down the streets in uniforms – 100 years after the end of the war to end all wars, after the Great War.)


Behind the more superficial explanations you will also find that these are important cultural sentiments that are found in probably all human civilisations, except ours: the honouring and remembering of the dead, not just soldiers or casualties of war. There is a glimpse of it in Christianity, All Saints Day and the Day of the Dead, particularly in some protestant traditions when not only saints but all dead are remembered – but most of this has transmuted to a mere halloween show these days.

“Ours is a culture built upon the ruthless foundation of mass migration, but it is more so now a culture of people unable to say who their people are.” Stephen Jenkinson

One of the greatest losses of our culture is the loss of our personal history. Our civilisation is a story of displacement, we don’t know anymore where the bones of our anchestors are buried. We don’t know their names or the stories of their lives. So, reversed we wouldn’t know where we will be buried, if our names, our struggles will be remembered.

My poppy appeal to myself is not to wear a poppy but to continue making it a habit, a ceremony, a remembrance to think of my dead anchestors, not knowing their names, where they are buried or much about their lives. With work it can be learned, to sit with them, to walk with them, and to breathe with them. And eventually they will give me their grace – at the hour of my own death, and before.

My ancestor’s bones lie buried in my bones
I carry their blood in the rushing of my blood
I sing their songs in my own voice
I feel the cool earth in my hands,
it is the same earth that came before me
Earth made up of the bones of ancestor’s
Earth made of life
Earth made of death
I call this family.

(From: Bones by Marianna)