Brexit Isn’t New. Have we Learned Our Lessons?
I have read a great deal about Brexit—United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union—both before the historic vote and in the aftermath. Several things strike me. At the risk of oversimplifying what I understand is a very complex situation, my first thought is that this type of action is not new. When people who belong to a large group lose faith that the group operates in their best interests, and indeed begins to retard progress they feel they could make on their own, they often decide to separate from the larger group. Whether the group is a political party, an economic collective, a social enclave, or even a family, the desire to get out from under a controlling thumb is a normal reaction to frustration.
Warnings echo loudly. There will be consequences! You don’t know what you are doing! The economic cost will be ruinous not only to the UK but to the global economy! So said the ruling powers as they threatened before the vote and now promise retaliation after the act. Of course there will be consequences. There always are with change. However, keeping things as they are has consequences as well. When the status quo promises more restriction, less opportunity to choose for oneself, and reduced safety in an increasingly chaotic global environment, a decision to strike out independently is not difficult to understand.
Similarly, it is easy to understand why the controlling group will work hard to maintain the status quo. People with power do not easily relinquish it. Indeed, they are willing to do and say many things to retain it. Questioning or tinkering from the outside is to be discouraged, even crudely shut down in the interest of keeping everyone (in the controlling group) safe. Ironically, the greater uncertainty is not among those who strike out on their own, but rather with those for whom maintaining the old way is paramount.
Equipped with skill, energy and determination, newly released people commit to creating something better. They come off the sidelines (where they were placed by those who claimed to have their interests at heart) and dig in to find new answers, create new opportunities, and revel in the satisfaction of hard work.
Is this an optimistic view for people who may have lost both skill and determination over the years? Perhaps. But nothing re-energizes like a fresh start and a new chance. Does this suggest that a bright shiny future is within easy reach? Of course not. But the prospect of helping to build something worth building is far better than waking up to another day of frustration, hopelessness and fury at promises not kept.
In this country we understand the cost—and the promise—of freedom. Well, we did. It will be fascinating to watch this new outbreak of freedom unfold. Fascinating, too, to see who, what, and how it will be thwarted. Lessons will abound, I’m sure.