July 18, 2016
Even more Melville authors on Brexit
by Julia Fleischaker
There’s been no shortage of commentary about last month’s stunning Brexit vote, and what it may mean. We’ve been keeping a running tally of what the smartest folks around — Melville House authors — have had to say.
The mainstream U.S. narrative about the British decision to leave the European Union includes hand-wringing and even scorn. Yet I see it quite differently, because I know a European country that long ago decided not to join the European Union and since then has flourished, delivering even more justice and shared prosperity for its people.
This is another moment when we can’t understand a significant issue until we check in with the outliers. Conventional wisdom is occasionally correct, but it is often significantly flawed.
Joris Luyendijk, author of Among the Bankers: A Journey Into the Heart of Finance, writing in The Guardian: Brexit is great news for the rest of the EU
The problem with Britain was not that it was critical of the EU. The problem was bad faith and delusional thinking. As the referendum debate has shown, the country has not come to terms with its own global irrelevance – hence its refusal to pool sovereignty. It continues to believe that as a sovereign nation it can get everything it had as an EU member, and more. When Europe’s democrats talk about “EU reform” they mean putting arrangements in place to make Europe’s pooling of sovereignty democratic. Britons mean the rollback of that very pooling of sovereignty. For this reason, Britain’s membership would have hit a wall sooner or later.
Many of the nearly half of the British people who voted remain now feel scared and angry, ready to lash out at their fellow citizens. But this will make things worse. Many of the leavers already felt marginalised, ignored and hated. The contempt — and sometimes snobbery — now being shown about leavers on social media was already felt by these communities, and contributed to this verdict. Millions of Britons feel that a metropolitan elite rules the roost which not only doesn’t understand their values and lives, but actively hates them. If Britain is to have a future, this escalating culture war has to be stopped. The people of Britain have spoken. That is democracy, and we now have to make the country’s verdict work.
If the left has a future in Britain, it must confront its own cultural and political disconnect with the lives and communities of working-class people. It must prepare for how it responds to a renewed offensive by an ascendant Tory right. On the continent, movements championing a more democratic and just Europe are more important than ever. None of this is easy – but it is necessary. Grieve now if you must, but prepare for the great challenges ahead.
Slavoj Žižek, author of Event, Trouble in Paradise, and the forthcoming Refugees, Terror and Other Troubles with the Neighbors, at Newsweek: Could Brexit Breathe New Life into Left-Wing Politics?
The intensity of the emotional investment into the referendum should not deceive us, the choice offered obfuscated the true questions: how to fight trade “agreements” like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership ( TTIP) which present a real threat to popular sovereignty and how to confront ecological catastrophes and economic imbalances which breed new poverty and migrations. The choice of Brexit means a serious setback for these true struggles—it’s enough to bear in mind what an important argument for Brexit the “refugee threat” was. The Brexit referendum is the ultimate proof that ideology (in the good old Marxist sense of “false consciousness”) is alive and well in our societies.
Sady Doyle, author of Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear…and Why, on Tumblr: Until it Hits
The polls said it was very likely that Brexit would pass, but some part of my brain shut that information out. It just couldn’t happen. It was too absurd.
It’s not just me. People who actually voted for it didn’t think it would happen. There are people on the television today, panicking, because they voted to leave the European Union, and “the reality of it is just hitting them” today.
It was also absurd that Trump would happen. It was absurd that a reality-TV star with no operative knowledge of government, no qualifications for office, and an occasional propensity for endorsing nuclear war, would lead the charge for white nationalism in America and become the Republican nominee; his candidacy was categorized under “entertainment news” for exactly that reason. People kept saying he couldn’t possibly win the nomination even as he kept winning states. It was all a joke, an impossibility, until you started to see people of color with bloody faces outside of his rallies. It just couldn’t happen, until it did.
A Planned Parenthood clinic is shot up by a man who thinks they sell baby parts. A man storms into a nightclub and shoots over 100 people for being queer. A female politician gets shot and stabbed to death for supporting immigration.
Every day, a hurricane comes out of the clear blue sky.
Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.