As in the USA, France, and many other countries, in Britain, two years ago, we too discovered more about a previously almost invisible group I call the Forgotten people.
Those who live quietly, who get on with their lives as best they can, who are just about managing, sometimes holding on by their fingertips, who strive to endure through all the problems life throws at them. Until ... they don't.
Maybe The Forgotten feel like beggars on the street, with few good choices, the winter cold that seeps into their bones cannot be ignored forever. Something has to give.
In the bubble of plenty, hardly anyone noticed The Forgotten. Wrapped up in our own world, we would walk on by, hardly noticing their plight.
A Dormant British Volcano Wakes Up
Folks who are left out when a country thrives, who feel ignored, disenfranchised, steadily seethe and simmer like a volcano waiting for its moment to be heard.
For the Forgotten, Brexit was their moment: their rage exploded … in a uniquely British way, first with the whimper of form-filling, and then - to mix our metaphors - with the emergence of a hidden volcano that was there all along: we just didn't notice.
And then we did!
Unlike the French Forgotten, in the 2016 referendum, the British didn’t riot in the streets, ransack shops, businesses, or set fire to cars wearing yellow vests (at least not yet).
In the USA, their Forgotten finally snapped and elected an "unusual" president, someone who, in different times, might be considered to be unelectable. However, in recent years, global politics seems to be experiencing the a kind of geopolitical pole shift. Extremes become magnified, the political centre squashed from both sides.
In Britain, our most recent seeds of discontent were probably planted decades ago, only to emerge into light in 2016.
The British people were asked to vote: to simply "sign off" on what the UK government expected, so that our London Parliament growing fat and rich in its hubris bubble, unaware of how disconnected it was from its people, could show that it had delivered on yet another of its election promises. And to then continue its “real” work.
However, The Forgotten Think Differently
They picked up a pencil and drew an X … in the wrong place: all 17.4 million of them!
Some folks in Britain of course, have never liked the European Union way of government. It's not hard to appreciate why: oligarchs who communicate poorly tend not to garner support. Patience evaporates eventually. Though managing 28 remarkably different nations cannot be easy.
As media exaggerations and claptrap have deluged our screens, others in Britain have fallen out of love with Brussels more recently.
For now at least, the Forgotten are not ignored any more. They are noticed, remembered, blamed, celebrated, maybe even still misunderstood. Though their names are sealed in history.
Or, if you like some fun conspiracy theories, when David Bowie died on January 10, 2016, did the known observable universe react badly? Did a tear rip across the entire fabric of space-time ... resulting in ... Brexit. Or, not.
Today, whatever the cause, the Brexit volcano has blown up. The “lava” is churning, flowing, running down the mountainside any which way it can, burning everything in its path, seeping into every valley in the land.
Who knows what path the next volcanic seam will take. The people live moment by moment. The air is acrid. Brexit dust obscures the light.
However, there is hope even in the winds that blow that black, pungent smoke all around us.
The Home Of Democracy Wants To Know If It Still Lives
In and around the London parliament, swirling around “the home of democracy”, competing flags billow and flap in the wind, voices are raised, politicians are heckled, horns hoot, occasionally bells ring incessantly.
In that place, emotion, not common sense rules the debates. There is anger, dismay, disagreement, fear, rejoicing, and more. "Winners" and "losers" gather watching each other like hawks waiting for the right time to feed ... or fight.
Some people abroad think Britain is in chaos. I disagree: the process were going through is simply because we care, each of us in our different ways. Why: our long, bloody history has taught us that some details matter. That some moments are historic.
Thankfully, for now, most Britons seem to show some understanding and acceptance for the spectacle. Though most grow impatient for something meaningful to happen.
Like all democracies, our democracy may be flawed, or not, depending on your viewpoint. However, for now, the democracy we have is the tool we use to make the big decisions as a country of mainly four individual nations.
While I was one of those in the minority who voted to remain in the EU. The idea that Britain would vote to not be a part of the EU any longer seems to me to be alien, puzzling, bewildering, even a little crazy.
Yes, the EU has problems, but as a key cog in the European machine, with our unique perspective, we Brits can help. I feel sure that the EU needs Britain as much as we need the EU.
Nevertheless, we are a democracy, the vote has now been done and people have had their say. So surely, we should respect the one result that matters, and try to find a way to make the path forward work best for all who will be affected.
And that is what is happening.
To those outside however, who think Britain is sinking in a sea of disorder, I suggest, keep calm, carry on, be patient: we are simply resolving some differences of opinion in a very British way.
Throw The Stone
Nevertheless, the process is fractious. We wonder if peace will ever return to Britain’s generally green and pleasant land.
It will of course: we just need an outcome, a resolution, and then let time do its thing. Once the stone hits the water and sinks, the ripples in the pond start to ebb.
Left alone, calmness will return, eventually, in time, in some form, in a way that is uniquely British.
Even amid emotive times, sooner or later, lots of us Brits like to keep our sense of tolerance and acceptance of the views of others.
As with all complex problems, sometimes, someone who is perhaps not too close to our Brexit dilemma, can more easily help us see through the fog and suggest a sensible solution that may fulfil requirements of the key groups.
Enter Kim Lane Scheppele, the Laurance S Rockefeller professor of sociology and international affairs at Princeton University. As Kim Lane Scheppele reminds us through The Guardian, "When all solutions are bad, it's time to reinvent the problem".
However, I suspect, right now, Britain is still not yet ready for such rational, pragmatic resolutions. Too many factions have too many differences to solve in too little time.
So whatever is decided, for sure, a new chapter will begin - we hope on good terms with our European friends.
Poorer Or Richer? How A Surprising Past Can Help Build A Better Future At Home And Far Beyond Our Shores
In the end, as a result of Brexit, or even no Brexit, whatever the outcome, Britain will be poorer, or richer: we don't know which.
And then we move on. Cycles are the natural order and we are creating another rotation. What that will mean we have yet to discover.
Europe too has been affected by Brexit, for the better, or worse. For sure, no one knows future outcomes throughout the other 27 EU nations either.
Even the entire world will change at least a little because of Brexit.
Today, while Britain is a smaller "commercial" nation, when we talk sense, others around the world tend to at least hear us out.
In the past, our British ancestors have had a hugely disproportionate affect on the entire planet.
During the last 300 years, the effect Britain has had on the world has been the most dramatic! With the "imperfect miracle" of the industrial revolution, during the 19th century especially, Britain spread its ideas and technology around the world.
Writer Marian L. Tupy of HumanProgress.org perhaps explains our more recent history better:
... The Miracle emerged, probably by chance and after hundreds of years of trial and error, in the splendidly quirky island of Great Britain. It then spread, however imperfectly, into other parts of the world. Today, the outposts of the Miracle can be found not only in Western Europe, North America and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand), but also in Asia (Hong Kong), Africa (Botswana) and Latin America (Chile). An extraordinary achievement.
Hiding inside British "quirkiness", is:
- The almost insatiable magnetic pull to plot a different course.
- The desire to follow the paths less travelled.
- To hear the beat of a different drum.
- To break the status quo.
- To test the limits - and then go beyond them.
- Rebelliousness. Countless invaders have met full-on the British spirit and have either been rebuffed or changed through the process, as we have changed too. If something new makes sense to us, we absorb, accept, with thanks. As a result, Britain today is made up of many different nationalities, and we are all better, stronger, and grateful for the luxurious mix of cultures.
All traits that are still present today in Britons far and wide wherever they may be in the world.
Thankfully, mostly through the capitalist-friendly nations, wealth continued to grow and spread at an ever increasing rate.
From Swedish author, Johan Norberg:
During the 25 years since the end of the Cold War, global economic wealth — or GDP per capita — has increased almost as much as it did during the preceding 25,000 years. @johanknorberg
Today, lots of different countries, using a range of astonishing technologies have helped make our world a better place.
As a result, hunger, poverty, illiteracy, child mortality, even pollution, all appear to be going down across the world. Wonderful news!
Good headlines don't bleed. Without lots of blood, mayhem, fear, in the attention age, newsmedia struggles to hold us spellbound. So unless we choose to reject the fear, uncertainty, doubt (FUD) narrative, look deeper behind the facades we're drip-fed, often, we won't hear so much about all the good things happening in our world. Yet wonder and surprises are everywhere.
Moreover thankfully, some of the world's largest, most successful companies are also some of the most generous. We should never forget their contributions.
Yes, we British may indeed be a "quirky" people. But through our values, the desire for trade with others, international commerce, and yes, even the drive of selfish gain, we helped spread the process of enriching the entire world, while striving to fix our own mistakes, as we move ever forward.
That's why, we can deal with our little Brexit issue, just like we have dealt with millions of challenges in the past. Even outside of the EU, Britons can again contribute and share and generate new wealth for as many people as possible, both at home and far and wide abroad.
While money is not everything, it exists and to live well, live better, for now, we must work within its constraints and maximise its benefits. Having enough to live comfortably, to thrive, gives people more choices, and is what makes life worth living.
However, The British Forgotten will now be forever remembered. At the end, let's hope we all learn from our latest experiment with Brexit, like how to spread wealth more fairly, more equally, and how to get along better. If our poorest do not thrive, we all lose.