In Dreams Awake

Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.

(Henry David Thoreau)

Friday, 1 July 2016

For Richer, For Poorer

 So, the UK voted to Leave the EU.

 I voted that way too, though with a heavy heart. I like the idea of European integration, even a single nation one day. But it has to be done properly. The EU is such a mess of compromise and corruption, and so incapable of taking care of its own problems, that I felt I had no choice.

 My reasons don't matter to some people. Simply for voting Leave I've been called a racist and an idiot many times. I've been informed that I'm a fool who doesn't understand the damage I've done. I have never encountered such vitriol and bile over a political decision before. It happens across the world, but not in the UK, not in my experience - though there were stories of similar venom after the Scottish Referendum in 2014. They seem likely to be true.

 I even know a man who has said he's "evaluating our friendship", on the basis that he might not be able to be friends with someone who helped steal his children's future.

 Yet while the EU has helped make Britain richer, it has not helped vast numbers of the less well-off. Tell someone on a zero-hours contract that he's benefited from the EU. Tell a person working at minimum wage, or doing two part-time jobs and unsocial hours - at minimum wage. Tell me, come to that, while I work variable shifts at unsocial hours, and guess what? For minimum wage. The gap between the rich and poor in most countries in Europe is wider than for a hundred years. Where is the wealth we're told the EU has created?

 I used to live in an old mining town in South Wales. Pontypridd has collapsed into poverty and a benefits existence since the last mines were shut. My wife once lived in Cornwall, remote and afflicted by patches of equal poverty. Both areas have seen massive injections of EU cash to regenerate them. In both cases the money has gone to out-of-area construction firms, or to build universities that local people can't attend because their school system is shot to hell. And both areas voted by significant majorities to leave the EU, because the union has not been able to do the very thing it exists for in the areas which need it most.

 Meanwhile the EU, under financial pressure, has abandoned Greece to perpetual debt and youth unemployment of 45%. Poverty is so extreme that people scavenge food from bins. Under immigration pressure the EU has allowed member states like Hungary, Austria and Croatia to erect border fences to keep out migrants. Yes, the EU protests, but then does nothing, and the fences remain. And people who defend this monstrosity have the nerve to call ME racist?

 I am, as you can probably tell, angry about this.

 I don't believe a system that enriches a few beyond reason, while offering little or nothing to most people, is worth saving. That isn't limited to the EU. The world is obsessed with Free Trade, but that impoverishes more people than it helps. We should be protecting local industries, paying decent wages - in short, practising the Fair Trade principles which we sometimes try to use when dealing with poorer nations. If it's fair for them then why not for us? The problem isn't lack of wealth; we have plenty. The problem is that most of us don't share in it.

 I find it hard to believe that the Fantasy/Historical worlds I write about have societies less unequal than our own. All our efforts on human rights, civil rights, women's rights, and still we have a wealth gap more suited to feudal England than modern Britain. This isn't envy, I'm not interested in being rich. I simple don't want to be made poorer by the system which claims to be enriching me.

 Rant over. Next time I'll try to get back to talking about writing, which seems to have got lost in the message somewhere. Take care everyone.