Well wouldn’t you know that since my last post on procrastination, I followed through on my deadlines, as well as followed up on some things lingering in the pipeline. I managed my time more efficiently by checking emails only once a day and saving social media for the evenings, and solidly dedicating the day light hours to my projects. During the late nights, I would reward myself with a movie or TV shows on Amazon prime.
I’m still struggling everyday to discipline myself to keep up with the many things that I have to do; but progress has been made! If you missed my post, Waiting for Tomorrow, you can read it here for some ideas on coping with a long list of items and getting things done today.
In other news, the atmosphere in London has been quite weird the last couple days. Since the #Brexit vote, it is almost as if most of the tension has been relieved. In fact, the few people that I know who want the U.K to remain in the E.U, seemed nonchalant about the vote and replied that today (Friday) is a new day forward. These are literally the same people who were preaching about the impending doomsday if the country left.
Meanwhile, the folks who did vote to leave, were also reserved and responded about how this was just a new path and regaining control of their country. One particular quote sums it up, “the British love the concept of the E.U., but we do not like the way its being run.”
Where was all this level-headed reasoning last week, I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure these people out.
There’s also the concept of identity that someone brought up: she didn’t feel European– she’s British. I don’t know if this is a widespread cultural identity, as I can tell you that outside of Europe, the inhabitants of the United Kingdom are looked upon as Europeans. But I know that politically and economically, the U.K have been adopting some nonEuropean traits in the last two decades or so.
I know people are concerned about the future, as there is much happening in the global political arena. Right-wing populist movements such as UKIP in the U.K, LePen in France, Petry in Germany, many nationalist parties in the Balkans and GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump in the U.S have been gaining quite a bit of momentum in 2016. Well from what I understand, many of these parties have had a presence (even if just a minor one) in the parliaments of these countries for decades; but 2016 seems to be the year that they all gained significant influence.
Now, each country is complex and are dealing with their internal socioeconomic problems; but if we can focus on a common theme that have led to the rise of these groups, in a simple term: ISIS/ISIL.
This extremist group has been the centerpiece for immigration reform, foreign policy agendas, social policies of integration, domestic and foreign security policies, and human rights laws. As Westerners (and people in the Middle East and Africa), we’re afraid of this movement and the many policies and initiatives that have passed can be linked to our fears of Islamic extremism (I use this term, because even though there are other forms of extremism, our media and politicians have focused on this form. Thus, its convenient to identify for anyone to reading this).
Immigration reform lately has been due to the displacement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, many countries are towing the line between humanitarian and security efforts. There are many debates about this around the globe from recipient countries of refugees.
Foreign policy agendas surrounding the question about how to fight a group that have taken recruitment and jihad ideology to an unprecedented level. We can’t put soldiers everywhere, we can’t bomb every town, or raid every house.
Integration: One thing that I will say about Europe (sorry, I mean the U.K) is that racial and class politics are very different here. Americans, you know our terrible history of segregation and the legacy that continues today. There are certain neighborhoods that we (whichever racial group you belong to) just do not go to. Most London neighborhoods are quite integrated– you can see just about anyone shopping for veggies at an African food market, or get this — I’m eating at Nigerian or Turkish restaurant and most folks there, are not of that ethnicity. However, there is still a problem of integrating immigrants in Europe, not just economically (think slums and ghettos) but also culturally. I’m first generation American, but I have never had another American question my “Americaness” to me. However, for Europeans even after 2 or 3 generations, they may not be considered “French” or “English” or “Danish”. Especially if they still hold an ethnic-sounding name. A French friend that I spoke with, said that these immigrants (mind you, 2nd or 3rd generation) should try to integrate. This is a complex problem which not just ties into immigration, but also how Europeans see themselves and others. And there are some academic literature which links cultural identity to young European-born Muslims who end up being recruited.
Domestic and foreign security – wire tapping, NSA, Patriot Act, collecting data from other countries about suspected terrorists? Yep, that’s a whole ‘nother post about every country that is trying to manage and catch every suspect, before they can do something lethal.
Human rights — another issue that can tie into everything mentioned above, but many countries are passing laws or initiatives that disproportionately have a negative effect on the Muslim community. For example, France’s law to ban all head coverings/religious garments in public, the NYPD’s surveillance of a Mosque, Denmark’s proposal to seize the bank accounts/assets of Syrian refugees so they could “pay back” the government for benefits. Many of these reactive initiatives or legislation do more to single out a group of people and “otherize” them, rather than get to the roots of the problem. Thick and deeply buried roots that no politician wants to dirty their hands with. Hence, the issues that I mentioned beforehand.
There are many political and social contexts of how nationalist-populist movements are taking shape from the Americas to the E.U.; my small analysis just looks at one factor, that cuts across different sectors, regions, and countries: the fear of ISIS/ISIL and how that fear has manifested itself to scapegoating, blaming, nationalism, divisive rhetoric, etc…and my last point on this: ordinary persons know that some far right-wing leaders are wrong and maybe immoral. I have spoken to Brits, who state they do not believe in 95% of UKIP’s ideology but voted for them because of “uncontrolled immigration”. Likewise, many people do not agree with Donald Trump, but feel his solutions “to keep us safe” are the best solutions possible. Thus, people seem to be voting for these leaders for the 1% of things that they promise, which is indirectly/directly related to fear of the rising ISIS ideology. They are also ignoring the 99% of problematic and divisive politics, maybe thinking that the ends justify the means.
The politics of fear is a driving force for the electorate in many countries and it is beyond left or right wing politics. However, I will say that no strong country is born out of fear, but out of hope. And I’m optimistic that Monday after the Brexit, British and Europeans will still maintain this hope for new separate but mutually beneficial paths for both sides.