I see the Brexit (British Exit) as a fearful response to a tidal wave of change in the world. Like every similar event in the past (and there have been many), we lose perspective when we see this through a singular lens. There are many forces in play.
It is absolutely true that globalism has had a weakening impact on dominant (first world) countries. The think tank elites who saw financial interdependence as a deterrent to global destabilization and communism did not think it through. They did not recognize that tossing the manufacturing sector to the lowest global bidder would tear at the fabric of the American and European middle classes and create a vast transfer of wealth on one hand, while increasing human trafficking and slavery elsewhere. Millions of people who once had jobs have lost them, while corrupt countries accept slave driven, sweat shop labor to provide cheap goods and high profits to the people at the top.
These changes, along with many other natural and political disasters have impacted an already weakening global situation and populations have been pushed to move. We now have the highest number of refugees since the end of World War 2. Vast movements of people cause fear in populations and they react.
The Brexit vote has been immediately followed by a significant number of racist attacks in the UK. As I read the news, I was surprised to learn that I would no longer be welcome in Britain, since the primary focus of immigrant violence in the UK is against Polish immigrants who have been coming in large numbers over the years. When my oldest son lived in the UK, he was called a “f**king Pole” on the street in London, because he looks Polish. Apparently, we are all minorities somewhere…
So now we are on the verge of a social phenomenon that should not be surprising, since we have been part of this before.
I recently watched a great show on PBS about Neanderthals who were assimilated into a massive wave of immigration by our ancient ancestors. At first, the newcomers had to assimilate to their new environment, but as our early ancestors increased in number, the assimilation began to flow in the other direction and immigration became invasion. This is not a singular occurrence. In fact, our early ancestors dominated the world in a relatively short period of time and then began a process of dominating each other that has continued, unabated ever since.
In school, I learned how our Early American ancestors came to America to escape persecution and practice their religion. Years later, I started to understand the Native American viewpoint that saw European immigration expand to invasion. Their early efforts to stop the wave of immigration were overthrown by shear numbers as Europeans moved in waves to take the land and push whoever was there out of the way. The term I learned for this, was “Manifest Destiny”.
I fear that vast movements of invasion are our common destiny. As a species, we are very good at pushing others out of the way to get what we want. In this case, Brexit is simply fear of history repeating itself in a country that has experienced multiple mass immigrations from the Romans, to the Saxons to the Norse to the Norman conquest. They’ve seen this before and always failed to hold back the tide.