Last night was the Eurovision song contest, our annual night of bizarre costumes, euro-pop, and countries that we can’t quite place on a map. Britain, a country renowned for its music industry, generally doesn’t do very well at Eurovision, and it’s widely viewed by Brits as something of a joke. No wonder we’re talking about “Brexit” when we can’t even get behind what is, arguably, the most innocent and idealistic part of the European project – a big annual sing-song to bring everyone together.
The thing is that we have a bit of a cultural attitude problem. We’re like that person who accepts an invitation to a party and then spends the evening complaining about the food, music, and the company, but refuses to leave before it’s over.
We used to rule the globe, much of the world can speak our language and we can’t quite get our heads around the fact that we are no longer top dogs.
No longer a world super power though, we’re like an ageing movie star who’s fallen from fame, and is not sure how to cope with it. We no longer know who we are, what we’re good at, or how to be happy. We’re not sure how to feel good about ourselves as a country, and end up blaming others (immigrants, other countries, the EU) for our own decline. The thing is, that we want to be part of the club that is the European Union, but only when we can be at the center of it. When the French and the Germans start calling the shots, we have a tantrum and threaten to leave.
Whether we really have the guts to leave is yet to be seen. The problem is that the Brexit debate is not really about what is best for the people of Britain or the people of Europe. The real implications of staying in or out of the European Union are far too complex for anyone to reliably predict. Brexit is an emotional whim that like any whim in life could turn out good or bad, but for which the consequences will only be understood well after the decision is made. Whatever we decide, it’ll be a reflection of our emotional state as a nation and not any rational analysis of what really makes sense.
There’s no rational and transparent design process in how we shape the future of our country and our continent, so where we end up is really anybody’s guess. Time will tell.